Forty Days and Forty Nights …

This time last year, everything seemed so fresh, so new, so exciting.

The sun was shining, the house was half rebuilt, the builders were putting the finishing touches to our lovely new kitchen, and we were emptying the top floor of the house, ready for them to commence phase two of the renovation project.

We were sooooooo busy.

I was teaching in the centre of Rome one day a week, and in Sabina three days a week, while Scott was busy with farm work here. Sometimes, on days when we fancied a change, we would meet up with friends, or go out for a meal, or wander down to the village bar for breakfast. We had MASSIVE plans for the year, and counted our blessings every single morning.

And here we are one year later.

The main thing is that we are still here, we are still healthy, and so our all of our family. Italy, like every other country, is doing its very best to prevent its health service from being overwhelmed, and its citizens from dying. And we are playing our part in the national effort, but the weather is not, and for us, that makes this Lockdown harder than the first.

Lockdown One in March was pretty straightforward.

The rules obliged us to stay at home, unless we absolutely had to go out for food (within the confines of our village), or some sort of emergency. And that was that. So we stayed at home. The sun shone, and we pruned vines, then trees, then planted out the veg plot, then went back to pruning, and taming, and maintaining our 8.5 hectares of Italian hillside. Every now and then, when we found ourselves stuck indoors for a day, we felt a little bit fed up, but it was rare that we were stuck inside, so we were basically fine.

Through the late spring and summer, restrictions were gradually lifted, and we even managed a couple of nights away from home in August. A vaccine was on its way, and so we were still, basically fine.

Autumn, and the second wave started to creep up on us all. But by now, we were working so hard harvesting grapes, then olives, that we just kept our heads down and got on with it.

Then the Christmas restrictions were announced. These provided for “Orange” days, and “Red” days, and the rules were as clear as mud.

Christmas 2020 (rather like the rest of 2020) has been rather complicated.

Red Days are lockdown days. They are “holiday days and pre-holiday days”. I only figured out on Sunday that this also means “weekends”. On Red days we are basically obliged to stay at home. Unless we have an urgent need to go out. For urgent needs, we may only go out within the confines of our village. But because our village is small (less than 5,000 inhabitants), we can, in fact, leave our village and drive up to 30 km for urgent needs. Unless it’s to a big town. Big towns are not allowed. Some shops can open, and some can’t. Hairdressers can open (I love living in a country where a trip to the hairdressers is considered “urgent”) but beauticians can’t. Shopping Malls are closed, including hairdressers inside shopping malls. Restaurants can offer take-aways, but not sit down meals. I think.

Orange days are the other days. There are so many “pre-holidays, holidays, and weekend days” at this time of year, that there are not many Orange days. On Orange days, we can move around our village freely, and even collect a take-away from our bar – or at least we could, if it were open. It might also be, but I forget the precise details, that we can sit down in a restaurant for lunch, but not for supper. I would need to consult my Orange / Red flow chart to be sure.

On all days, whether they are Orange or Red, we can make one visit to one home, once. And that visit is not confined to our village, or to within 30km of our home. We can even visit big towns. But we can’t visit our friends ten minutes away in the village of Calvi dell’ Umbria. As its name would suggest, Calvi is in Umbria, and we must remain within the region of Lazio. Alternatively, we can receive two visitors who live in Lazio. But we must all be back inside our homes by 10pm. And once we get home, we mustn’t go outside again until 5am, whether the day is Orange or it’s Red. Unless it’s New Year’s Day, which was even REDDER than a normal Red day. So Red, in fact, that we couldn’t go out until 7am. But of course, New Year’s Day was Red, so we couldn’t go out ….

We cancelled our Christmas travel plans, and decided to hunker down here, and do the same jobs we did last time we were confined to home. On Orange days (well, we think they were Orange days), we went to the supermarket and bought lots of yummy treats for our Home Alone Christmas.

But let’s talk about the weather.

How it has rained. And galed. And stormed. And even snowed. I know that galed looks strange, but the alternative is winded, and that doesn’t work. It has been extremely windy.

And so we have been stuck inside, home alone, for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. Thank goodness for mulled wine.

On the positive side, with the exception of our bedroom window, the house is now absolutely, definitely, certainly waterproof. And we now know that we can keep it warm, more or less for free, even in the filthiest weather, thanks to Scott, who is chopping and sawing and splitting wood day after day. And we’re learning to play chess. And we can cook all sorts of things that we couldn’t before. And I am ploughing my way through my online “how to be an Italian farmer” course. And Scott has done a couple of jigsaws. And he has fixed the tractor, yet again. And we’ve found a supplier of sauvignon blanc grape vines, which we can get delivered, and planted once the weather comes right.

On the other hand, Bella has not yet consented to coming for a walk this year. Holly has taken up permanent residence under the blanket on her sofa. The hens are begging to be allowed to live inside the house with us. The only thing that is dry around here is my work, which has completely dried up.

The massive plans for our massive (and very exciting) 2020 project are STILL on hold, and are no further forward than when we had to cancel a site meeting in March last year. We have no idea when we will see our families again, and the UK has entered yet another full lockdown – here, we are currently awaiting news on what will come our way at the end of the week, when the latest regulations come to an end.

But. Science is coming to our rescue, and soon, very soon we hope, our most vulnerable populations will be vaccinated. And spring is on the horizon. And perhaps one day, it will stop raining.

And so today we are taking down the Christmas decorations. But these little angels will remain in the hall, wearing their masks. We will put them away when we can finally emerge from our homes after this wilderness period, and hug our loved ones once again.

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