April started with light but steady rain here and snow on Monte Bignone across the valley from us. In fact, the last day of March was a unpleasant day, cold with intermittent drizzle and a leaden sky, following a couple of weeks of cloudy and cool weather. After being told all winter how mild it’s been we were now informed that this was unusually cold for the time of year, so it seemed we were now getting the winter we didn’t get in January. More evidence of erratic weather patterns, perhaps associated with global warming.
At any other time we’d sling some logs on the stove and curl up on the sofa, but our stocks were now low and we hadn’t planned to get any more firewood until the summer when it might be a little cheaper. With visitors coming in four days time we had to make sure there would be enough logs for the stove up in the guest flat, so down here we had to make do with thicker socks and pullovers. Although we have perfectly adequate central heating it never seems to achieve the comfort level of the wood-burner. Still, we thought, spring must surely be on the way.
By then I was starting to worry a little about all the seeds I’d planted in mid-March. None outside in the garden had shown any signs of movement and we feared they were starting to rot in their pots. Indoors, a tray of exotic grass had burst into life, but most species need temperatures above 20°C to germinate and this simply hadn’t happened in the two weeks they’d been sitting there. After developing buds in late February most of the trees had also had second thoughts and had stopped with buds just half-open, waiting for warmer days to arrive. Having said that, the hillside opposite was starting to green, though the oaks were still covered with last year’s dead leaves.
By an unlucky coincidence, April 1st was also the date chosen by our neighbours in Perinaldo to invite a bunch of their English friends for a lunchtime outdoor barbecue. After four months without more than a dribble of rain this was about the worst day to pick. So the event moved indoors – fortunately they have a huge living room able to absorb any number of people. There seems to be some minor, unwritten law of nature along the lines of “wherever English people be gathered together for a barbie it shall rain”.
The cause of the unusually cool weather was a large area of high pressure over Britain, also responsible there for unusually warm days around Easter. These systems can take a long time to move and are responsible for long periods of settled weather. High pressure over northern Europe allows depressions to run along the Mediterranean, giving us our cooler weather. Unfortunately they weren’t accompanied by any significant amount of rain, so there’s a general fear of water shortages later this summer.
As the month progressed, Easter came and went, and at last Spring arrived. Very suddenly the nights became warmer, going from below ten degrees to the low to middle teens. Plants resumed their growth and we started to see lizards scuttling in and out of their homes in the terrace walls. We’ve also seen a couple more tree frogs, this one squeezed in between the leaves of one of the palms. I don’t think he was impressed by having his picture taken, but he decided not to make an issue of it and waited for me to go away. Down towards the stream at the bottom of the valley there are many more, and on warm evenings their croaking carries up the hillsides. It’s amazing how much sound is produced by such a tiny animal. And last night I saw my first glow worm; a small patch of bright green light just outside the door.
By now (April 21) Spring is definitely here and the plants are doing their best to make up for lost time. Still no rain so we’re doing a lot of watering; I hope there’ll be some left when the really hot weather arrives.
On the morning of April 13th we opened the door and could hear another sound; that of high-performance motor vehicles, coming from somewhere down in the valley a mile or two away. We couldn’t see much through binoculars because most of the road to Perinaldo is hidden from us by trees, so after breakfast I scooted down to the village. On the junction was a small knot of people, and every minute or so a car came up from the Perinaldo road and past us through the village. All the cars were classics; Porsches mainly but quite a few others including Mini Coopers and various kinds of Renault, and the stickers on the cars announced the Sanremo Historic Rally, taking place over three days. This isn’t a race and the roads remain open to normal traffic, but some of these cars are driven quite enthusiastically so to encounter one on a mountain bend might be a little more exciting than usual.
On the same day I logged into Telecom Italia and typed my telephone number in the ADSL availability box. I do this every month or two while waiting for the wireless broadband system to finally become operational. To my surprise, instead of the usual “not available” message the system invited me to sign up for the service, meaning that the Isolabona exchange had at last been upgraded to deliver broadband. I thought about it for a while and decided that a regular ADSL service now is better than a promise of wireless tomorrow, and that given the nature of the technology it’ll probably take them a year or so to iron out the bugs and deliver a reliable service. So I signed up for a year (first three months free) with the intention of monitoring the wireless situation to see if there’s an advantage in switching after that.
However, a week later the status of my order had changed from “Working” to “Cancelled”. No further information was available on the website so I rang up and asked what happened to my order. The answer was that the computer had made a mistake and the exchange at Isolabona hasn’t been upgraded after all. So it’s back to the World Wide Wait.
Finally, a new project. Fresh from building the pergola (which has created a surprising amount of extra usable space outside our front door) I’ve now thrown myself into a pond, so to speak. At one edge of our patio area, under the stone terrace wall you can see in the photo, is a low cement block wall behind which there was a rather scruffy bed of roses and other plants. (The planks in the photo are a table; ground level is below that.) So I’ve dug out the bed and plan to line the resulting hole with cement blocks then render it, waterproof the cement and fill it with water with the hope of keeping aquatic plants and a few fish. This area loses the sun early in the afternoon, making about the only place that won’t boil dry in summer, but it still may need a shade for the hottest weather. There are various electricity cables to be re-routed, as can be seen, and the whole job will have to be fitted in with other things as it’s not the highest priority. But hopefully it’ll all be done by the middle of summer and we can enjoy the tinkle of running water on those hot evenings. Assuming there’s any water to do the tinkling.