26 dicembre 2013

This year's Christmas tree

This year's Christmas tree is an in-memoriam branch from the fallen oak. Pretty much as soon as we brought it in, leaves started falling off it en masse, so that the living-room floor now looks like autumn. By Christmas Day itself the tree was nearly naked, apart of course from the tasteful decorations, some of which go back to when Alessio was an infant and we made decorations out of paper and swirls of glitter. Looking at them, we decided these are actually a whole lot prettier than much of the crap you buy in the shops. And we have no angel on the top, but we do have a slightly sinister hanging corn dolly that Alessio once made on a school trip to somewhere. Happy Christmas, faithful readers. 

22 dicembre 2013

Jupiter and the moon

Jupiter and the moon staged a gorgeous extravaganza in the eastern sky the other night. With my astro-binocs I saw two of Jupiter's moons very brightly and got my usual thrill from that; and swinging round to the west, with much peering about I managed to see comet Lovejoy again. Low in the sky, smaller and smudgier in the orangey haze over town, but still enthralling as it beats its lonely path through the universe (sigh).

Jupiter a tiny dot at the top.

 In other news: we have a temporary road again so are now mobile, though it's not easily transitable in the ordinary car and as soon as it rains we're going to have to use the 4WD as a shuttle, but at least we don't have to walk through the mud to the top of the road any more. Thank you Mario. The downside is that there won't be any of the promised big diggers, or not for a while anyway, as Mario is shunning the book-learning of geologists and reckons he can fix the whole thing all by himself come next spring once it's dried out. He doesn't want to hear the idea that putting in drainage channels right now would help it dry out. Some discussions ahead, methinks.

The original road went straight on where now the new road veers right
(coming from the house).

11 dicembre 2013

Not much to say

Not much to say about the landslides at the moment, apart from that there is no progress (but also they're not getting worse) (unless you count the new cracks in the road above the collapsed section). The Comune has refused to help us, though we're submitting another request to the Regione for disaster aid. A geologist has come round and given us some advice on how to deal with remaking the road and filling in the sinkhole (as I now think of it) outside the house, but nothing can really be done until the land dries out (so we're talking next summer). Still, as we have beautiful weather at the moment and the forecast is good, we're going to try to get drainage channels installed to carry off water from under the road landslide to help it dry out. This is major work and will involve a very large digger, so rest assured I'll bring you photos of that. 

In the meantime, here's a video of a chicken.

8 dicembre 2013

Yesterday it was the most

Yesterday it was the most fantastic clear night with what we astronomers call "good seeing". A sort of clear darkness. I took my astronomy binoculars out just before midnight and spotted with incredible clarity: two moons of Jupiter, the Orion nebula, and the Andromeda galaxy, as well as a few other interesting space objects. There's a comet around at the moment, Comet Lovejoy, visible in the early morning near the handle of the Plough. Putting my habitual early-hours insomnia to good use I got up at 5.00am and went outside to see what I could find. As well as all the above-mentioned items again (but in different places), I eventually managed to see Comet Lovejoy. It's a beautiful comet with a classic tail. Thrilling to see and worth getting up for. I love to think of it up there speeding across the sky. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to photograph it (requires some kit and a certain amount of know-how, patience and dedication that I probably don't have) but I might try one day.

Other than that it's been a quiet weekend. I finished knitting my wrap, shown in the picture — a gorgeous thick merino wool shawl to keep me warm on winter evenings.

4 dicembre 2013

In the midst of events

In the midst of events that are truly calamitous, you'd have thought that the tiny irritations of everyday life might be somehow less irritating. But it doesn't work like that. Let's talk about socks, for instance. That way they have of slipping down inside your wellies and bunching up under the soles of your feet? Really irritating. 

So this year I bought some special welly socks, and I tried them out today on what was our first really frosty morning of the year. And they were everything cold-weather socks should be: warm, soft, thick and a litle bit scrunchy-feeling. Stomping round the yard at 7.30 in the ice I could practically feel my toes smiling to their little selves. But — and it's a serious but — the socks slipped down. The socks slipped down! The single defining characteristic of welly socks, surely, must be that they don't slip down. I pulled them up, I tried them over my trousers and under my trousers, I rolled them and unrolled them, and nothing helped. I even tried them folded over the tops of my wellies, which stopped them slipping down, obviously, but let in cold air and felt weird. And even when I was standing staring at the broken land with my heart racing in horror, a little part of me was being seriously irritated by the falling-downness of my welly socks.

 Still, just so as not to lose track of the calamities, here's a picture of the view from my bedroom window now.

And two landslides visible across the valley in the other direction. The one to the far right is directly under our friends' house, the other (the big one) is on the edge of a private road like ours, but doesn't seem to have attacked the road.

2 dicembre 2013

I've been trying to think

I've been trying to think of something else to post about, because if this were a film everyone would probably have left the cinema by now. Not another landslide, pleeeze; how many landslides can a plot decently deal with? So today the photos of the tree. 

The tree came down in the night, the heaviness of the snow weighing down on it past bearing. A huge, century-old, beautiful oak that framed the lane going down to the fields and partially shielded Mario's monstruous corrugated-iron and breeze-block barn from our delicate vision. It did all the things oaks are meant to do — gave shade, gave acorns, gave shelter to small creatures, gave us kindling for the fire, and gave a touch of majesty to the setting. The tangled filigree of its branches in winter was a work of art. Of course it was only a tree, but seeing it lying sprawled across the lane and field (I'm not going to write 'like a felled giant', but you know I want to) is breathtakingly sad. 

It's been raining torrentially for 24 hours and I do have some more news about landslides, actually, but that can wait till tomorrow.