home life

The life span of a fridge

One of those useless titbits of information which floats around in cyberspace, and to which very few of us give much attention, has to do with the life span of a fridge. Ten years seems to be the general consensus of opinion — though whose opinion is not quite clear — and that same benchmark can apparently be applied to most large electrical appliances.

Well, much to my dismay, I can now confirm that — at least in this household — the one about the fridge is correct. If only I had recognized the signs — the heaving, the heavy engine grumbling noises, the shudders — I might have been better prepared for the worst. But no — I just regarded these symptoms as nuisances sent to ruin the audio of my favourite films, our having an open-plan lounge/kitchen/diner and all.

So when it finally died a very noisy death ten days ago, I was quite unprepared. Financially more than anything. And no amount of surfing on the internet could find us anything that cost less than almost €400 to fit neatly into the fitted cupboard space over in the corner of the kitchen. And this morning it arrived, and to add insult to injury, it took hubby some 3 hours to finally tame the thing enough to get it to sit inside the cubby hole properly.

If you know someone in the bomb squad who can find and defuse the ten year time bomb sitting inside your fridge, I suggest you get them to do it at the earliest. Meanwhile treat your faithful fridge with a little tender loving care … you just never know when it might turn nasty on you.

Dealing with the mozzies

Compared to a few years ago, the mosquito situation in Venice seems to have improved tremendously. I can well remember my early years here when I would get up in the morning covered in bites with a feeling of great fatigue after a night spent battling with these invisible, though noisy, enemies! Small consolation to know that only the females do the damage as they inject an anti-coagulant under the skin in order to take their fill of blood necessary to develop their eggs before laying.

Probably the main reason for my seeing an improvement in the situation can be found in an improved understanding of their habits, and a slight change in my own. My husband is not convinced that there are less mosquitoes around, but just that I now know how to deal with them a bit better! My memory of excessive numbers of mosquitoes is more likely to be of the non-biting — though still a real nuisance — kind. The numbers of that particular species diminished considerably as soon as the local authorities began to remove the dead algae which accumulated in the lagoon which was, by the way, also the principle cause of the terrible smell so often associated with the city.

Something which has definitely happened in recent years is that a ‘new’ type of mosquito has been introduced — the Asian ‘tiger’ mosquito — which has a higher nuisance value in my opinion as this one does not limit its activity to dusk and dawn, but comes out during the day.

So what are my suggestions to tourists or new residents here for avoiding the discomfort of mozzie bites?

— When you go to bed, avoid using strong perfumes. A quick shower to remove perfumes and perspiration will help

— Close all windows before turning on any lights in the evening. If you have air conditioning this will mean that you can leave the windows closed of course. If you do not have air conditioning, only open the windows again once you are in bed with all the lights turned off. Personally I do not like using any of the contraptions with chemical products which are available on the market for keeping mosquitoes away. However, some of these small electrical units do use little tablets with natural ingredients such as citronella so keep your eyes open for those. Citronella is also the deterrent used in various types of candles, but of course it is not wise to leave these unattended in bedrooms during the course of the evening. They are ideal for eating outside if you have a terrace or ‘altana’ — as also are the spiral burners, commonly known as ‘vulcano’ which burn slowly letting off smoke. Be warned that they have a strong smell and might not go down too well with your meal!

— Whatever you choose, particularly with regard to the bedroom where I would suggest only the use of the little electrical contraption, you can keep the windows closed in your absence, but before going to bed, turn off the unit, and with the lights out, leave the window open for about 20 minutes at least so that air can circulate. Mine is only a suggestion, but the packaging on the specific product will give you the directions for its proper use of course.

— Keep a repellent to hand in your bag or backpack as you move around during the day. You will only be likely to need to use it if you are visiting areas with lots of trees or wetlands such as some of the smaller islands — Torcello, Sant’Erasmo, San Francesco for instance — or if you are sitting in a restaurant garden too. It will also come in useful if you decide to eat out somewhere in the evening — a quick spray before sitting down to eat will help ensure that you are not bothered by the presence of mozzies. Just make sure you do the spraying some distance from the other clients, and remember your ankles which are always a vulnerable spot. As said before, I prefer to use the natural oil products available. They are not as efficient as a chemical repellent, but in many situations I find them to be enough.

— And if all else fails, make sure that when you get yourself a repellent, you also buy an ‘after-sting’ to soothe the itching!

— In our home we have an old-fashioned, ‘Casablanca’ style mosquito net hanging over our bed. Very inexpensive, they can be purchased in various places — I think we got ours in Ikea actually — and very effective. Just flap around inside the hanging net a few times before closing it to make sure you have no mosquitoes already inside! Also make sure there are no areas around the edges where they can enter, and do your best to avoid snagging the net as the mosquitoes will find a way in through even those little holes.

— Make sure all potted plants on your balconies (and those of your neighbours) do not have an accumulation of water in the little dishes or trays underneath as this is a sure way to encourage breeding. I am told that it is sufficient to drop a couple of pieces of copper wire in these dishes to discourage breeding — must be some kind of chemical reaction which doesn’t suit the development of the eggs I imagine.

Reading back through all this it would seem that we can hardly move for mosquitoes! Not that drastic at all, though knowing how to deal with them can make life a lot more comfortable — particularly ‘holiday’ life. I had one buzzing around my head here in my little office yesterday, but since the temperatures outside have dropped again, the mozzie activity seems to have stopped for now. However, it won’t be long before we have to get out our net again I’m sure, and by April, through until at least the beginning of November, it is likely to be a full-time feature of our bedroom décor!

Cambio di stagione

And this morning’s rant is all about these very small Italian homes which require that between seasons we have to do the so-called ‘cambio di stagione’… change of season. All the summer stuff gets put away in boxes or unreachable areas in/under/over the very tall wardrobes, to be substituted with the winter clothing or vice versa. Which in theory doesn’t sound like a problem but which in practice is a real pain in the proverbial. We never seem to all finish with all our summer clothing at exactly the same moment, which means there is this fastidious half way moment when there are summer and winter clothes on the go between the wearing of them, the washing of them, and if I am foolish enough, the ironing of them. A moment when the wardrobe, chest of drawers and all available surfaces around the home seem to be jam packed with both seasons waiting to be moved in one direction or the other. And today was the day I tried to put some order in the chaos and make the summer clothes (and those who wear them) understand that they could no longer foul up the system and had to come to some decisions about where they wanted what to be. Took some doing, but I am beginning to see the way ahead … and better still, the table and the settee. I might even be able to plan a little writing time now and again if all goes well …

What… only 2 and a bit jars?

peach jamI really don’t know if it was worth all the hassle, mess, heat and dirty dishes! Only two and a bit jars of peach jam! I can’t even vouch for its being good enough to eat yet either, not being an expert on the matter.

Anyway, it’s done now, and the next 24 hours will be the test. If the jars don’t explode, then I can have a taste of the stuff on my toast tomorrow morning.

Watch this space (as usual!)

Hi-tech-hi-fi

golden oldiesStill finding time now and again to have a good clean-up of all the excess stuff which still resides on my computer, and in the process, I am finding surprises tucked away here and there.

This time a photograph of my ‘little’ brother and I taken when he came to spend a summer with me in Venice during his uni holidays many moons ago. He and two other old friends of mine ‘dossed down’ in my tiny apartment together, totally ignoring my very long and taxing working hours, and spending a great deal of their time telling one another jokes, would you believe!

But what struck me most about this photo was how easy I was to please in those days. Evidence of this can be seen in my hi-tech-hi-fi system — the yellow thing dangling off the wall!! My little battery powered transistor radio!!!

Bigger downscaling

It is just so long since we had any news for our boat blog, I have just had to content myself with reading the adventures and misadventures of others – so I want to thank those with problems with their boat bottoms and hatches and so on who have kept my interest alive in these recent weeks.

But there has been a step forward of sorts, in so much as the 3 permits have at last come through to build the big marina where we are hoping to have our space. We submitted our request for the mooring some time back, but until these 3 permits are officially collated and the plans back in the main authority offices, they cannot begin to process our request.

I have continued to throw out stuff accumulated over the years, but only yesterday we at last decided to make a big move and sell the car. For those who live on the mainland this may seem pure folly, but we have to take a boat trip to get to our car which costs us about €2000 a year to keep in a multi-storey garage. That is the folly from our point of view! So we have put the word around and are now looking at motorbikes.

We used to have a motorbike some years ago – nothing very big, and I seem to recall that we passed more time pushing it to the garage than riding it – but it sure was fun. If nothing else, we might even be able to load a motorbike onto a barge which would give us more autonomy during our trips out and about. As for the car – there are a couple of car sharing places nearby if we think we need a car for the odd day out, so not having our own shouldn’t bother us really.

So yet again I suppose I must end on the usual note — ‘watch this space!’