Spring arrives

Well it was nearly a month ago now that Malcolm and Kate left here after their six-month over-winter stay, a day that nearly started in disaster when my poor old car died on the motorway. This prevented us from doing the expected tearful goodbye bit, and while our neighbour Guy performed the emergency taxi service we sat waiting for the engine to cool down enough to restart. After a quarter-hour or so it burst into life, at first reluctantly then with more confidence, enough to get us home and to the garage a day or two later, albeit with regular top-ups from a bottle of water I’ll now probably always carry. It seems the additional damage was minor; most of the repair cost was coming anyway as the entire cooling system was on its last legs.

A week or so later I went round to what I still think of Malcolm and Kate’s flat to collect the laundry. It did feel a little strange; although we didn’t spend a huge amount of time together it had become reassuring to have a close family member so near, and the village now seems a little empty without them. I read the Cirrus reports with interest, and given the balmy weather the whole British Isles seem to have had this month I wonder if they’re not a little relieved to be gone from here, maybe even regretting the whole thing from time to time. It was such bad luck to have had such a bitter winter, and little consolation in the fact that it was much colder back home. After all, the Riviera is supposed to be warm and sunny, and this winter saw little of either. On the other hand, they made new friends with Guy and Noelle and gained an exposure to both French and Italian culture that would be hard to repeat.

Looking back over the six months it was certainly not without interest. We didn’t join them on their epic mountain walks – it’s not really our thing – but got together from time to time for unusual events. There was the olive picking at Colletta, a good way from here but an enjoyable day out. We joined the New Year revelers in Sanremo, a very Italian near-chaos affair with lots of noise but everyone well-behaved. Maartje came over from Holland to visit; here are the three of them on the sea front in Ventimiglia in late December:

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Winter stretched on through January. On February 8th the sun was again high enough to clear the top of the mountain, giving us an immediate two hours extra sunshine. In theory, that was. We’d planned to celebrate by having a lunchtime party in the sun on our roof terrace, but it never got warm enough and it wasn’t until the end of March it actually happened. February swung from brilliant sun to cold winds on a regular basis; here’s one rare warm day down on the beach at Calandre (now missing all its sand but having gained an impressive array of winter driftwood:

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Also that month Torri received its first proper snowfall in what some locals claimed was 30 years. This is what it looked like:

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In March was Malcolm’s Big Six Oh and the accompanying family get-together. Here’s a snap at Olivetta on a day out touring:

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and on the sea front in Ventimiglia:

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The rooftop party finally happened the day before Malcolm and Kate left, the start delayed by them unfortunately locking themselves out of their apartment. Finding a spare key took a certain amount of ringing round the village but in the end one was located and a crisis averted. We spent an enjoyable afternoon in the sunshine on the terrace, with the village an invisible if not inaudible backdrop. I was sure I’d taken some photos but I can’t find any; a great disappointment.

And so on to April and at last the weather picking up. Still not up to par for the time of year but at least not winter any more. The trees are in leaf, our potted flowers are starting to bloom and the oranges are growing strongly. Here’s my Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa or the Empress Tree) in flower a few days ago; the flowers have a wonderful delicate scent. I grew it from a seed about three years ago and look forward to giving it a permanent home in a real garden one day.

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Finally, work has now started on the new marina in Ventimiglia. The fishing boats on the beach near the Seagull hotel are gone and to replace them a shiny yellow bulldozer is in position ready to start excavating. We plan to take regular pictures of progress, but here’s how it looks now:

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Right now the house is full of boxes containing our first – and so far only – Galley Shop order this year. This came about because a chef we’d supplied last year had moved to a new boat and was re-equipping. Back in early March we took Malcolm and Kate with us to the shipyard at Varazze, about a hundred km or so from here, and left them to explore the town while we sorted out the order aboard a superyacht. It turned out to be the foulest day imaginable, with high winds and snowfall, and a couple of hours later two very chilly souls joined us in the galley to thaw out. On the way back there was even snow settling on the motorway at Savona, a very rare event.

The house has been up for sale for some weeks now but with very little interest so far. The agent reports a generally quiet period but hopefully this will change before long and we’re placed on a large number of websites and with other agencies. We keep busy – very busy in fact – and try to keep the faith that we’re doing all we can. As long as the general economic climate continues to improve there are still reasons to be optimistic. The Riviera Woman has a steadily growing profile, with a few advertising enquiries, and makes us contacts that may well result in business of one kind or another. Anna has two invites for a party at the Cannes Film Festival; she and Wendy will be going to spread the word about the magazine.

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