Saturday, July 15, 2017


This is an embarrassed Donatella trying to get back on her horse. Could it be that a year has gone by without postings? How is this possible?

The short answer is that Donatella's academic alter ego was writing a book, retired from her beloved university posts of 33 years, and downsized after 35 years from her beautiful home. It has been a year filled with transitions, and you know how much Donatella loves those. But it's time to try to catch up.

There has certainly been no lack of misadventures to record. After all, this IS the Umbrian countryside where the returning homeowner is likely to encounter power outages, droughts, busted irrigation systems and garbage disposals and pool pumps, and riding mowers that have gone on the fritz. And that doesn't even include the espresso coffeemaker that gives Donatella's husband reason to live.

To resolve each problem requires a certain energy and patience, but the silver lining can be a good story and the cementing (or re-cementing) of a relationship with the lovely people who generously help us.

To add to the chaos of the settling-in process after a 4.5-month absence, why not order a swing set? The grandkids will soon be coming for their summer visit, and this should be a great surprise for them. Unfortunately, to get such an item delivered here can entail a few surprises of its own. I offer as evidence the following.

Below you can see the size of the truck carrying the new swing set that had to make its way down our terrible road.


When the driver called to say he was at the Casa di Riposo (Old Folks' Home) and could we meet him there, we thought it was gonna be a piece of torta. "That's just a few minutes from our house!" I told him excitedly.

When he asked on the phone how bad the road was, I kind of waffled and felt my nose getting longer as I said, "Well, we regularly get gas deliveries from a big truck that comes down that road." He said his truck was probably bigger than the gas truck. As it turned out, he was right to be suspicious.

When we got to our local Old Folks' Home we found a giant truck there alongside a guy bulldozing earth that he was depositing into it. Oops! With no swing sets anywhere in evidence, we realized that this was not our truck.

Then I remembered that our little town of Castel Giorgio is Old Folks' Home "central": there are at least 4 or 5 of them scattered around the town.

When we called the driver again to ask where the heck he was, he was starting to get impatient on this 94-degree day, with lunchtime approaching. Finally we sort of realized where he was, and thanks to Karen on the GPS, we got ourselves there. I went up to introduce myself to the driver and apologize profusely for all the confusion. When I asked him his name he said proudly, "Leonardo, as in Leonardo Da Vinci." I then introduced him to my husband, James Bond, after which we seemed to be starting off on a better track. That, of course, was before he saw the so-called road.

There were some tense moments during the journey itself, including meeting, coming from the other direction, a hysterical woman (who could have been me) who had to back up to let us pass. Leonardo hopped out of his truck to keep her from falling off the cliff, and we were temporarily back in business.

But that was before we encountered one hairpin turn just short of our driveway that looked like a deal breaker. Leonardo was not happy at all. He again hopped out, threw his hands up in the air, and proclaimed that there was no way he was going to be able to move anywhere ever again.

Because we've lived in Italy for nearly 10 years now, we recognize this as just the usual phase when all looks lost. The trick is to just wait it out. Sure enough, with a little guidance and encouragement from cool Mr. Bond, Leonardo managed to maneuver himself back on the road in the direction of our place.

By then, he wasn't trusting anything we said about how easy the rest would be. He stopped a few yards back from our gate, and hopped out again while gesticulating wildly in the direction of the overhead trees.

It was unclear if he would be willing to go any further. But trees can bend, and so did he.

The topper was when he finally backed up to our door and opened the back of the gigantic truck. There in one corner were the components of our swing set. The rest of the space was completely empty! Why they ever sent a behemoth that size with a load that small to middle-of-nowhere Italy is anybody's guess.

We offered Leonardo some water and our sincere thanks, but not before complimenting him for taking after his namesake by being a true genius.

These other photos are of our entrance driveway on which my tireless brother and sister-in-law, Jack The Wack and Susan, did so much work last summer. It had grown back with a vengeance, but was whacked into submission this morning by Francesco and Ricardo, our two new garden helpers. Even with their power tools, it was a big job that we are accustomed to doing ourselves with small hand tools. But it is good to see how the pros do it, and we will now try to follow their model.
The next adventure: assembling and installing the play set. Fortunately for us, another genius, Serghei from Moldova, will be coming to help with that. He has two kids who we hope will get to swing here, too. Who ever said that to be a swinger was going to be easy?

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