This year has seen a bumper olive harvest. The trees were laden with so many olives that sometimes they looked like bunches of grapes. To those of you who have never picked olives and imagine it’s living the dream – it’s not. But having said that, the first two weeks, with help from friends, the sun shining and the trees of a reasonable height then yes, it is magical. But it’s not so great by the time you get into week four. The friends have gone home and you’re left with a hardened core of pickers. The weather has cooled as much as the enthusiasm, only the big trees are left to pick and each one taking up to two and a half hours with four people picking. One tree yielded 140 kilos…Amazing. Not as much as this one though – largest olive tree in Italy . The Man thought there was a bigger one in Sicily, but I can’t find that. If you know about it please tell us.
Don’t ever ask The Man to cut your hair – if the way he prunes an olive tree is anything to go by then you would be lucky to be left with a strand or two.
From the lips of the local farmers, there’s a great deal of advice about planting, pruning, picking and pressing olives. It’s always contradictory advice too, one man telling you one thing and his friend/wife disagreeing. We’ve listened to it all, The Man and I. We’ve read books and researched the Internet, basically you end up doing your own thing and for us that can’t have been bad because – friends and family, we’ve picked tons of olives (3 tons in fact) and consequently many litres of oil this year. It is certainly worth the hard work. I have never tasted any oil so delicious as the freshly pressed virgin oil from the newly picked organic olives. We’re not registered organic but the trees are not treated in anyway. They grow and flourish, only by drawing nourishment from the rain and sun… and a bit of love of course.
Before I came to Italy I had no idea that olive oil could be so good. It’s labour intensive to harvest and as The Man always points out, when you buy olive oil from the supermarkets for under €10 a litre then it cannot be good stuff. There has been much controversy in the press about big oil companies cheating and mixing the oil but I don’t know enough to go into all that here. All I know for certain is that our olive oil is wonderful.
Olivespastavino will be going to England in the New Year so if you’re good to me and I bump into you, then maybe you’ll get a drop or two.
By the way, there’s a great deal of talking goes on around each tree during picking and I’m tempted to make notes or record the conversations because they are so diverse. Subjects range from basic recipes, shopping, best and worst restaurants, expats you love or hate, religion, politics, healthcare in Italy v other countries, tax systems… I could go on forever and so did some of the discussions. I’ve taken to sitting on a box while I lovingly strip the olives from the branches either with a rake or my gloved hands listening with interest to those declaiming and joining in as and when I can – I’m not so good in the sport category but streets ahead in the useless bits of information section.
I know you’ve all been dying to know how we got on with the cat and the dog on our drive to England from Italy.
Well…it is not something that I would wish to repeat – at least not with the cat who miaowed for most of the 1200 miles (poor chap) but took less than twenty-four hours to settle in his new home in Essex where he is being thoroughly spoilt!
We were full up with luggage and at one point Jpeg did try to get on top of it all so that she could be closer to us!
Most of the stress of the trip was caused by the fact that our Italian vet wrote the wrong date on the animal passports for their last check and the dog’s worm tablet which had to be no less than 24 hours before entering the UK and no more than120 hours, a big enough margin but of course he had to make a balls up of it – and he also omitted to put in the time but wrote next year’s date instead! Goodness knows why. When I realised his mistake I called him and he just said, ‘change it, it’s no problem.’ But of course I did think it was a problem and I was convinced that the dog and cat would be impounded at Calais because I had tampered with the passports. I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before we left and had little rest on our two nights en route. First night in Aosta, second in St Quentin.
As it happened everything went well at Calais, but I was so nervous I couldn’t get the scanner to work and read the animal’s microchips, particularly the cat who was absolutely terrified when I lifted off the lid of his box and a stupid man with a huge black Labrador allowed said Labrador to put his humungous nose up the cat’s bottom!‘I’ve got a cat here!’ I shouted but he was an ignorant self-important man who ignored my obvious distress and went about his own business not caring what happened to me or my cat. The French animal immigration lady tried to remain calm but obviously thought she was dealing with an idiot (me) so she spoke loudly and slowly,
‘You are doing eet wrong. You must make ze circle movement over ze shoulders of ze animal, you are not following my instruction!’ I bloody well was following her instructions – I needed help, where was The Man when needed? Thankfully, he was close by and able to hold the dog while I got the hang of the scanning machine.
Travelling with the cat and the dog was bad enough, but imagine taking a ferret? It must be quite a popular animal to take abroad because they even have a tick box dedicated to them on the pass for your car window. We didn’t see a single ferret – or horse for that matter, but they would be a little difficult to smuggle in one would imagine.
The dog was as good as gold throughout the whole of the journey, jumping in and out of the car no problem. She seemed to loved England, all those different smells and no problem with the language. During October she slept in several different locations and as long as she had her bed, her food and we were close by she never made any fuss. For five days we left her with friends in Bristol and we were told that she behaved impeccably – although when we went to collect her there was no way she was going to let us out of her sight or out of any door without her!
It was wonderful to be back in England seeing friends and family. We visited, Dorset, Devon, Bristol and of course Essex where we left Mickey the cat. Although travelling around for nearly 4 weeks, I didn’t manage to catch up with everyone – it’s impossible. But we’re hoping to be back again in early 2016.
We drove all over dorset and couldn’t believe how many public footpaths there were. In Italy you are free to roam almost anywhere but I think the walks in Devon, Dorset and probably most of the West Country, might take a lot of beating.
Of the small towns we visited Beaminster (pronounced Bemster) was one of our favourites – and I discovered my cousin lives there so we met up with him and his wife for lunch in Bridport, a lovely Dorset town full of bookshops, antique shops, craft shops and tea shops!
Some of the other things we did in England…
Went to the cinema to see live screening of Giselle by the Bolshoi.
Ate pub lunches.
Walked miles down public footpaths.
Went to a two-book launch in Exeter, Sophie Duffy‘s Bright Stars and Cathie Hartigan’s Secret of the Song. Have read Sophie’s and can highly recommend it-great read. Have only just started on Cathie’s so will let you know how it goes – it’s a good beginning anyway!
Went to London and saw Sarah Mayhew and Sadie Hasler (Old Trunk Theatre Co) in their production ‘Pramkicker’ – fantastic! Superb script and brilliant acting from two very talented actors.
Met my brother and his wife for dinner in London – we’re managing it almost yearly now!
Also met up with my sister in Thames Ditton…she had been poorly and in hospital so a timely visit. She’s better now though…at least she’s supporting the bar at the local pub again so she must be okay!
I hope you like this small collections of photographs from our visit. Whilst in England I celebrated my 65th birthday with family and friends, naturally my lovely granddaughter (all the way from New York!) had to blow out the candles on my cup cakes. (Why didn’t anyone tell me I had a silly tuft of hair sticking up on the top of my head?)
On a more poignant note, our family came together from around the world and one morning we scattered the ashes of my lovely son Tosh who died in 2011 in a tragic accident. Now there is somewhere for his extended family and his friends to pay their respects if they wish. A beautiful plaque in the garden of remembrance two, in Arnos Grove Cemetery, Bristol. I’m looking forward to visiting it often.
It’s olive picking time again in Italy so plenty to get on with now we’re back and…the sun is shining! Yeah!