26 novembre 2013

Because sometimes life is just not hard enough

Because sometimes life is just not hard enough, what you really need in the middle of an ongoing emergency situation where your access road has been crumpled up and tipped into a field and your garden is being eaten away chunk by chunk before your eyes, is a really heavy snowfall. The kind of too-early-in-the-year wet snow that bows down the trees with its weight, adheres to fences and walls with its stickiness and gives a unique and lethal slipperiness to the roads. That white snow-light coming through the curtain when I woke up nearly made me cry.

Mid-morning, soon after the Internet went down (that was a given, right?), the electricity also cut out. I went to check the fusebox and then looked outside. My eye was caught by a flash of orange. At the top of a pole. It was the Man From ENEL. I bundled up and went out to talk to him — or rather shout to him, up his pole. He waved at me. "Tira aria!" he shouted. Yes, it sure was windy.

So the dangerous wires across the road are now gone, and at least we can cross mains electrocution off our list of safety in the home issues — though the pole's still leaning, so I'm not ruling out some kind of one-in-a-thousand accident involving that.

Meanwhile the landslip near the house seems to be coming closer, or rather getting wider, but it's hard to tell in the snow as everything looks altered.Tomorrow the schools are closed because of the conditions, so the Boy, at least, is happy.

24 novembre 2013

Yesterday the loss adjuster

Misty valley, muddy fields
Yesterday the loss adjuster from the house insurance came round to look at the so-called damage caused by the leaking roof and windows. When he phoned to make the appointment I had to think hard to remember what he was talking about, as that rain-leaking event has now been so comprehensively superseded by the landslides and the damage has paled into insignificance. It's funny to think that two weeks ago today none of this had happened, the rain was just beginning, and the worst that I thought could happen in my life was to have to strew a few buckets around the living room to catch the drips. No, not so funny, really.

This is the view of the top of the landslide shown in my previous post.
The hole is about 5m deep. The edge of the road
is just on the other side of the red-and-white tape.
The gaping chasm near the house is still creeping towards the road. I think of those houses built on clifftops that are eroding and one by one the houses fall into the sea. It's a horrible feeling, watching this kind of damage occurring in slow motion and being utterly powerless to stop it. I'm living with a constant sense of fear, the kind where you lie awake at night with your heart pounding and your head spinning and nothing makes sense. My dreams are filled with tiny events of everyday anxiety: a huge spider in the bathroom, my glasses getting broken, my wellies developing leaks as I walk through puddles.

The first landslide, the one that took away our road, is sinking further every day. Filippo's crew made us a bypass by cutting back the bank, but the edge of the new road is on the unstable ground and itself is sinking, so we still can't drive the car up to the house. At least we have a fairly firm path to walk on though, rather than having to wade through mud. (My god, that's a feat of brightside-looking-on.) The roadside electricity pole is careening at an alarming angle and ENEL assure me they have a cunning plan to fix it, but meanwhile above the path are stretched the wires that take the current up to Mario's house — stretched very close to breaking point. If they break they'll fall across the path. When that happens, the ENEL guy told me, don't even attempt to step over them or go round them: call the emergency number and wait and someone will be round in half an hour to sort it out. I wanted to know why they couldn't move the wires pre-emptively — you know, so that actually they don't fall on top of our path and potentially electrocute me and my family — but obviously that's a cunning plan too far.

In amongst the dread and stress it's hard to find pleasure in normal life. Everything feels slightly deadened because of the constant backbeat of worry and the awareness that this is not going to end anytime soon. I've never known anything like this before. Early in the morning the mist over the valley was pretty, yet in the photo I see more the ocean of mud than the beauty of the view.

20 novembre 2013

The land just keeps falling

The land just keeps falling away. This is the new landslip around dawn today. This landslide started on Sunday morning (happy birthday to me!) and has been encroaching back towards the road by about 2 metres a day — huge chunks of land just breaking off and crashing into the field. The field itself has taken on an entirely different shape. There's no means of stopping the landslide, so we just have to wait for it to come to a natural halt, whenever and wherever that might be. Not much more to say right now.

16 novembre 2013

At 7.30 on Wednesday

At 7.30 on Wednesday morning I walked up from feeding the animals and noticed that the road looked strange. It looked as if someone had piled gravel over it in a line in the middle of the night. As I walked closer, I realized that nothing so simple or wacky had happened but that, in fact, the entire road had collapsed over about a 15-metre length. A sense of slow shock set in as I got nearer and went to look. The field below the road had suffered a huge landslip and just dragged the road down with it. The photos say it better than words really.
Water pipe rescued. Note tilting electricity pole.

Miraculously our water pipe, which was in the bit of land that shifted, was undamaged. Our Digger Man and all-round saviour, Filippo, and his crew have now dug it out and re-routed it above ground, so at least we now can stop worrying that our water will be cut off as the land slips more. 

Things always improve when the men in orange reflective vests take over.
Four days after the initial landslip, the area of damage is deeper, wider and longer. We have been told the road can't be repaired till the ground has dried out and settled, which pretty much means next summer. Unthinkable that our house be inaccessible by car for nine months, so Filippo has hatched a plan to cut us a new, temporary road bypassing the landslip on its top edge. Meantime we don wellies and trudge over the mud of the ex-road and slog up the hill to reach the car parked at the top, where we change back into normal clothes and try to re-enter the rest of the world, where people just walk out of their front doors, get in their cars, and go.

Herbie tests the metal duckboards.

12 novembre 2013

After a balmy weekend

After a balmy weekend, Sunday night it started to rain. And it hasn't really stopped since. This is the heaviest rain I've known since living here. Not the most prolonged, but the absolute hugest quantity in so short a time. There are floods everywhere, the fields have streams running across them and there are pools in the bottom of the valley. We have leaks all over the house, water coming in through the roof and through the windows (useless window fittings). Yesterday was spent in damage limitation, lugging buckets and pots around to catch the drips, and then emptying them every few hours, they filled up so fast. 
No way out...

This morning I drove Alessio to school and a 10-minute trip took 45 minutes. Our way into town was (and still is) blocked by a large landslide across the road, so I had to go round the long way, which was also blocked by a landslide, so I had to go round the even longer way — which was just having its landslides cleared by a digger... The countryside is awash in water, landslips and mud everywhere, it's crazy. And still it rains.

... and no way home

8 novembre 2013

So here I am

So here I am after a year of not getting round to writing about anything that happens. Not that much happens, but, you know, some things do, sometimes. This is probably the last-chance saloon for my blog though. Little and often is my latest mantra. And, hell, I'll reformat it — let's run with a bigger photo. We'll see how it goes.

We got our winter log supply delivered the other day and stacked it on the apartment veranda, where it now sits looking pretty in the sun. A lot of sun. Right now it's insanely hot for November — it was 30 degrees on the sunny side of the house yesterday. I'm writing this at 8.30am and it's already nearly 20 degrees on the shady side. Walking the dog earlier the air felt balmy and soft, not at all autumnal. I like warm weather and I dread the winter, but at this time of year this kind of heat feels profoundly wrong, like something is badly off-kilter. Luckily the weather forecast is terrible, the temperature's meant to drop with big storms sweeping in, and although I can't say I'm looking forward to that, at least it will be more normal.

And that's the end of the weather report.