July 16, 2020

Alfie proposes in the veggie garden

There are two new souls in my big house

There’s my wonderful boy and there’s his Mr Mouse

It’s perfect they’ve come together

It’s fantastic to share the joy

Because all those years ago

That Alfie was brought here by Boy.   

He turned up one day after school

When Boy was just about ten

And now 19 years later

They’re together once again.

One’s here to sit out Covid

In his mum’s big big house

One’s here to try his luck

With she we call Mrs Mouse.

They’ve both found a welcome refuge

They’re both happy as can be

There’s joy and food and wellbeing

And there’s a very happy me.

I saw Mrs Mouse on the weekend

In a highly excited state

I think she was getting ready

For a very special date.

I’d heard Mr Mouse, that’s Alfie

With her daughter, having a chat

I heard the word betrothal

And I thought, well finally that’s that!

Then I spied them out in the veggie patch

A long walk just before dark

Returning arm in arm

I thought he’d made his mark.

Her eyes were sparkling as they should

For a girl who’s met her match

And the ring around her paw

Was not found in the veggie patch.

Our Alfie had made an effort

To capture our Mrs Mouse

And soon there’ll be a wedding

In the big big country house.

With huge thanks again to the talented @rozi_clarkeartist for the wonderful drawing.

Instagram @tuscanvillarental

Mrs Mouse at 100 days lockdown

June 12, 2020

Mrs Mouse meets Mr Alfie

100 long days I’ve been locked in this house

Just Her and my kids, said my Mrs Mouse

I know there’s some freedoms, I know there’s some slack

But truly and really I want my life back.

It started in winter then went on through spring

And now it’s still raining like any damned thing.

My kids have grown fatter with food all around

She’s tired sometimes and it goes on the ground.

She’s had the pool opened. I’ve been out to see

It’s all clean and lovely and really quite twee.

But rain it does come and thunder and all

So outside is not yet for having a ball.

Mr Alfie woos Mrs Mouse in the sitting room

Meanwhile I’ve been meeting with Mr Alfie

He’s snuck out of the car a few times to see me.

We meet in the garden and under the house

Where no one can see us, smiles fat Mrs Mouse.

I think he’s quite handsome, I think he’s quite wise,

I think I quite fancy his current guise.

He’s been in that car for nineteen long years

He’s seen a good lot, both laughter and tears.

I like his blue shoes and I like his nice scarf

And boy when he tries he does make me laugh.

He’s asked me to go out on a Saturday date

Just me and him, not kids or his mate.

Mr Alfie picks some flowers by the pool to give Mrs Mouse

I think he’s quite keen and I’m a little bit scared

It’s such a long time since I’ve been together in bed.

Let’s see where it leads us, let’s see where it goes

I’ll be ever so shy if he takes off my clothes.

So I’m leaving it there, no more for today

Just keep me in mind whenever you pray.

I’ll promise to tell you next time for sure

Whether he got his way or I showed him the door.

With thanks again to my dear friend Rozi Clarke for the wonderful drawings. Do follow her on instagram @rozi_clarkeartist

Until next time….stay safe


Mrs Mouse meets a Potential Spouse

May 28, 2020

Mrs Mouse meets Alfie

On Thursday I went to Lucca alone

Just me in the car, my purse and my phone

It was Day 81 and we were allowed out

And wonderful it was, without any doubt.

I’d snuck out without Mrs Mouse knowing

Hoping she’d spend her day quietly sewing

For Mrs Mouse’s daughter is growing so fast

The size of her clothes are now getting quite past.

For twenty long years in this big blue car

I’ve had a companion driving both near and far

But it wasn’t till Thursday I came to my senses

This old, old friend had potential new tenses.

He sits over the mirror guiding the way

Both during the night and during the day

I see his head and I see his blue feet

As he gazes down at the driver’s seat.

I look at him now and he’s definitely male

I can tell by the length of his very long tail.

You see, despite children, she’s single, my Mouse

And this life-long friend could be her new spouse.

He’s definitely handsome and he’s definitely smart

For 20 long years, my life he’s a part.

I’m thinking a wedding in these Covid days

Would brighten the light of an otherwise haze.

But first they must meet, and see if they fit

And then we can plan it, a bit by a bit.

So Alfie I want you to meet Mrs Mouse

She’s such a fine creature that lives in my house.

If like it you do, one another and all

I’ll start preparing a high summer ball.

With more gratitude to the amazing Rozi Clarke for her beautiful whimsical drawings. Follow her on Instagram @rozi_clarkeartist

Until next time….stay safe



May 20, 2020

The continued adventures of Mrs Mouse

It’s day 78

I don’t want to be late

When into a shop

I can now pop.

At last it’s the day

Hip hip hooray!!

We can go where we like

In a car or a bike.

Go down to the lake

Watch out! There’s a snake!

And even the sea

Just you two and me.

But what about Cat?

Said Mrs Mouse’s daughter.

Oh no! don’t you know

Cats don’t much like water.

To the town we will go

It’s closer you know.

We don’t have to go far

Once we get in the car.

We can fossick in nooks

And look at the books.

Not too much to ask

To wear that mask.

To the nursery I’ll go

To get veggies to grow

Tomatoes and peas

And whatever I please.

To eat in the summer

When they’re so yummier.

So come on my mate

Let’s go on this date.

It’s now half past eight

We don’t want to be late.

With immense thanks to @rozi_clarkeartists for another beautiful drawing.

Tomorrow……Off to Lucca….woo hoo.


T’was on day seventy-four

May 14, 2020

My birthday card from the exceptional Rozi Clarke

T’was on day Seventy-Four

I said no! Please, please no more.

It’s my birthday today

I want to go out and play.

But No said the Decree

You must wait just more three

Or actually four

Till you go and explore.

You can drive down more ways

To the bars and cafes

You can get a hair do

Maybe even a shoe.

But it’s today I celebrate

I want to share with a mate

It’s time for a cake

And I’m not going to bake.

On Monday it’s true

We can go for a shoe

In fact, we just oughta

For Mrs Mouse’s daughter.

She’s grown up in the days

That have been such a haze

74 days alone

Staying in my home.

Next week! It’s the jive…

We can go for a drive

If we’re all still alive.

Collect the mail

Drink a cocktail

And even a pizza

Me and the Mizza.

With thanks again to @rozi_clarkeartist for my beautiful Meece on the Birthday card.

Stay safe everyone…. this too will pass.


Mrs Mouse meets Mr Plod

May 10, 2020

Oops….is that Mr Plod?

Its only fitting that Mrs Mouse is out with her daughter on Mother’s Day but….look closely, I think the daughter has a new ally….and it’s not one who her mother likes…..

T’was on the way home

Thinking we were alone 

Stopped by the police 

Get out you two meece!

Get out of the car

Don’t you know it’s too far?

Too soon to be free

Not on the Decree.

You must go straight home

Right Back to your house

Both you Mr Cat

And you Mrs Mouse.

But I wanted my daughter 

To go in the water 

Picnic by the sea

Just her and me.

I don’t care about that.

And you too the cat.

This travel is banned

Don’t be underhand.

You must understand

It’s for everyone’s good 

To stay in your ‘hood.

So go home right now 

Without a meow

The time will soon come

When you’re allowed out

To go through the hills

Without any ills

To the shops and the beach

To whatever’s in reach.

I’ll not fine you this time

Cos I’ve had too much wine. 

With thanks to @rozi_clarkeartist for her continued wonderful drawings.

Happy Mother’s Day all…….

#day70 #iostoa casa



May 7, 2020

Finally out for a walk… villa from the fields below

The 64 million-dollar question of when ‘this thing’ is going to be over is anyone’s guess.  I don’t have a crystal ball. But I did have a ball on Day 64.

A new Decreto came out last week that sent me searching for cousins. It said we could meet up with family to the level of second cousins.  For an Italian that would be so easy.  My village only has three main families and when we first bought here they all thought we were crazy buying a crumbling ruin 20,000 kilometres from home when we had no family ties. Even though there is a large M over my front door my search for a cousin in the village failed dismally.   

My step-daughter Bec’s husband suggested his rellies on the island of Elba but, whilst it’s in Tuscany, is still out-of-bounds for a visit.  So I had to look closer.

On Monday in anticipation of a visitor, I did a bit of cleaning I’d not bothered about for a while, changed the tablecloth and napkins, stacked the downstairs fridge with vino and put on lipstick.

Because we have to wear masks once we step off our properties, lipstick has seemed such a waste, as has nail polish, make up and jewellery. My Fitbit lies forlornly on my dresser, wondering when it will be fit for purpose again and the few bits of jewellery from my last visit to London, from whence I returned 66 days ago, lie beside it.  I’m a bit concerned that if I don’t start engaging with the earrings the holes in my ears will close up.  But they’ll probably get in the way of the mask. My glasses certainly do…. they fog up in the first moment of donning the rather unattractive blue number that the Comune delivers in a hand addressed envelope every couple of weeks. They clearly don’t expect you to go out much as they only give you two and they are supposed to be single use.  

They all seem irrelevant these days…specially the Fitbit

Anyway Mary was very happy to leave her restored mill down by the river and come up, arriving with a bag of freshly-laid eggs from her clutch of chooks.  Opening the door, I beamed ‘Mary it’s so great to see you’ and she responded ‘Shall we hug?’  We did: a big, long, tight hug; two friends, both been alone for longer than two months, not touching anyone and trying not to touch anything alien. Except she has a cat. And chooks.

So Mary was my #fakecousin for the night as we sat down for dinner at opposite ends of my table, having to get up to pass something. It was probably a bit pointless having had the hug, but I hadn’t thought that when I’d set the table.  I knew Mary would be ‘safe’ so I wasn’t being reckless, remembering that day in 2013 when we’d handed in the last applications for permission to build my pool and, around 5.30, had a couple of wines to celebrate. I went home; she went on to do a few things before going home and at around 10pm when I was sitting up in bed reading I got a shock phone call from the Lucca hospital saying she’d had a heart attack! So she’s been probably even more rigorous than me and was in fact a #safecousin for our shared celebration.

Not much snow left on the Alpi Apuane

The Decreto has allowed us out to walk from May 4, but in Tuscany it was from 1 May and my first walk was just wonderful.  There is only one road through my village and I took the downward stretch, past the village hall, the priest’s house which no longer has a priest living in it, a couple of houses, a small carpenter’s fattoria, the old school house, the cemetery on the right (where I’d be happy to end up in a notch in the wall, but not yet!) and to the crossroad – one side to the village where I shop and the other side to the towns I miss so much. So I took it, past a newly sown field of potatoes on the edge of the medieval village that was lucky enough to escape the 1920 earthquake that took the original village where I live. I walked past the soccer field looking green and pristine, past the track where grown men throw cheeses on a Sunday afternoon (the local sport of tirra della forma) and on, past meadows full of wildflowers with the backdrop of beautiful mountains, the last snows melting on the Alpi Apuane, the marble mountains that separate me from the coast, and with the splendid spectacle of the fortress spread-eagling itself out on the far hill as a constant reminder that I live in ancient lands.

Tirra della Forma…throwing the cheese

Yesterday, taking advantage of the relaxation I drove down that road through villages I’d not been in for more than 2 months…loving the rediscovery of the place, enjoying the myriad Italian flags flying from windows, and remembering that I’d seen my village’s on my walk, sadly flying at half-mast for the more than 29,000 deaths from CV19 in my adopted home.

The ancient Fortezza snaking along the hill at Verrucole

I found my way to a plant nursery I’d not visited before, wanting to buy seedlings, as my man Toty has been busy preparing my veggie garden, and the type of geraniums that are supposed to hang lusciously from baskets for my top terrace.  Every year I look at other people’s and wonder why I can’t get the same lush growth, and this year maybe I’ll be here to tend to them a bit more and rival my neighbour’s. 

Waiting to be planted

I also wanted 15 lavender plants.  30 years ago we planted a hedge of box near the clothes line, now a meter and a half tall, and three years ago they got a disease which mysteriously came in the summer and went away in the winter. My friend Linda called it the Chelsea Blight as it was all around London too. Anyway they picked up again after summer and I didn’t pull them out. Last year was the same and I thought of reefing them out but I was so busy with the revolving door of guests, I left them and on Sunday I looked at them and thought, ah lots of new shoots, looks as if they will be alright this year.  On Monday they were dead; all of them.

Yesterday I said to Toty, please pull them out. I’ll get some lavender to replace them. Normally the nurseries are overflowing with lavanda, but guess what, not a single plant available anywhere in the valley. These are strange times but at least I can now start planting my veggie garden and look forward to its abundance in the summer.

Driving home, slowly, annoyingly for the cars behind me I imagine, I had a lovely time reacquainting myself with these charming villages and lovely homes, grey stone, flags flying, neat laurel hedges, the beginning of geraniums in their window boxes.  One of the things I’ve always loved about this area is that the Italians don’t trick up their houses to an inch of their lives: bits of crumbling stucco and paint not renewed every year or so are quite acceptable.  I remember having a tongue in cheek letter published in Melbourne’s ‘Age’ years ago as a response to all the ‘Tuscan dream homes’ being advertised saying they were nothing like, and not nearly as nice, as the real thing.

Noon came and I was delighted to hear the church bells ringing, not from one village, but five different ones as I drove home…each on a slightly different time scale. A minute to midday, a minute past, three minutes past. And I smiled to myself in loving the imperfection. Back at home my church bells chimed at one…they’ve not got themselves reset yet for summer time, but who cares, one can crib a bit here and there in these strange times and it gives me a second opportunity for that dry vermouth on the rocks, always a midday custom.

The Mrs Mouse collaboration with my friend Rozi Clarke in Melbourne has been great fun –  my poems and her fabulous drawings, and on Sunday I found Mrs Mouse had a rival.  Sitting on my little balcony I spied a large green lizard running along the top of my dry stone wall and disappearing under a lavender bush. Bright green and quite wonderful, it’s a Ramarro, and it’s now been given the moniker Romeo. Sadly he’ll probably be the only Romeo in my life this summer.

Romeo my Ramarro

I’ve been working on an anthology of things Italian, or more specifically, things from my special part of Italy, called the Garfagnana in the upper reaches of Tuscany. It’s a great lockdown activity and strengthens the reasons why I love this place. So, fingers crossed, one day there may be a book of my meanderings and photos….

And yesterday I celebrated the anniversary of the day I left Melbourne on my Gap Year. It truly was only to be a year but I was never ace at maths and I’ve been having too good a time to leave.

A message from a friend on the eve of my leaving Melbourne 8 years ago

Meanwhile…to the orto…my veggie garden to plant my seedlings. I love my evening activity of watering them….gin and tonic in one hand and hose in the other….

Stay well…..from #iostoacasa on #day66.


Instagram #tuscanvillagelife

Its Day 63 and Mrs Mouse goes to the sea

May 4, 2020

It’s Day 63

I’m allowed to be free

I can go and buy flowers

For hours and hours.

But what about me?

Says my Mrs Mouse.

You can’t just flee

With me in the house.

I’ve been here for you

Now you want to shoot through.

I want to come too

To just be with you.

OK Mrs Mouse

Let’s get out of the house.

Shall we go to the sea

Just you and me?

Well no, we can not

She says, it’s too hot

And I’ve got my daughter

She too likes the water.

Just go get your gown

I said with a frown

Just make sure you don’t drown.

I’ll go to the car

We’ll be going quite far.

We can drive through the hills

If you think there’ll be spills

Please bring your pills

And we’ll go by the mills.

Up into the mountains

Past those water fountains.

Then we’ll into the tunnel

And out through the funnel.

How different the air,

We’re nearly quite there.

Down to the flat

If you see that cat

Please put on your hat.

It’s time to disguise

To avoid your demise.

It’s Day 63

We both can be free

We’ve arrived at the sea

Just you, me and she.


Poor Mrs Mouse

So sick of the house

With beach in her dreams.

But not all as it seems.

Not allowed that far yet

Not even a pet.

And we have a few

For the cat has come too.

Just look in the corner

Like Little Jack Horner.

That cat that you fear

Has followed us here.

So home we must go

Until that Decree

Which says, Mrs Mouse

We CAN go to the sea.

Enjoy my friends and stay safe.

We are tutti nella stessa barca…all in the same boat.

Hopefully Mrs Mouse will have her wish soon..

Thanks to the talented #rozi_clarkeartist …for the wonderful drawing. Do follow her on Instagram.


#TuscanVillageLife – Instagram


April 27, 2020

Mrs Mouse and her daughter meet The Cat

T’was on Day Fifty-Five

I saw sweet Mrs Mouse

Let’s go for a drive

Let’s get out of this house.

We can have a good chat

And even a pat.

Mrs Mouse don your hat

Look out!!!!  There’s that cat!!

Where are you, you brat?

Hiding under the mat?

That silly old cat

Only fancies a rat.

Come out Mrs Mouse

We MUST leave the house

Its day Fifty-Five

It’ll help me survive.


Now its Day Fifty-Eight

I still wait for that date.

She said, can’t it wait

I’m afraid of that cat

It might think I’m a rat.

No Mrs Mouse!

We must leave the house.

Go get your hat…

I’ll shoo off the cat.

Mrs Mouse got her hat

And I caught that cat

And out we did walk

To have a good talk.

I said Mrs Mouse

You can stay in my house.

I’ve got used to you here

And you’re really quite dear.

Without you alone

And so on my own

For day after day

No walking, no way.

I must stay in my house

With you Mrs Mouse

Till Day Sixty-Three

When I think I am free.

With thanks to my dear Rozi Clarke for her beautiful illustration.

Until next time…..


Instagram: TuscanVillageLife

It’s DAY FORTY FIVE and I’m still alive…

April 15, 2020

From my kitchen window, well and most of the bedrooms too

The one constant is my wonderful view.  Every morning the first thing I do is look out my bedroom window and fall in love all over again. As I have done for the last 33 something years. And every night as I switch off my light the last thing I see is the ancient fortress opposite, still lit from end to end with the tricolours of the Italian flag.  And, despite the challenges in this country, I am glad I’m here. We have a brilliant medical system and a Prime Minister who decided at the beginning of this pandemic that people were more important than the (already awful) economy.

This morning I recalled our excitement a few months’ shy of 34 years ago when we wended our way up through these hills for the first time. Our plan was to buy a moderate place maybe with a bit of land and with a view to become our holiday home – albeit a full day’s travel from Melbourne, but so what? We could do it and it would be fun.  Three years later, on our first visit after the restoration, we brought an eight month old Hugo to a giant stone house in a tiny village where we were the only foreigners and everyone thought we must have come from Perth, which they pronounced Pert, because it was where so many folks from this area went after the war. 

My Comune in the foreground and my villa in the top village just below the church

It never occurred to me then that we would live here, or even weirder, that I would live here, or even weirder still, that I would live here alone for more than the forty days and forty nights of so many biblical events that we all learned about at school and I, for one, promptly forgot their significance.  

I read a week or so ago that the origin of the word quarantine was Italian…or Venetian to be absolutely correct, and reminded again yesterday by my Aussie friend Alison, quarantined in her two roomed apartment in Milano, that the Italian ‘quaranta giorni’ meaning ‘forty days’ was the period that ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death. Perhaps the NSW State Government should have acted upon that before they allowed all those infected people to go ashore and spread CV19 in Sydney.

Anyway, I’m on DAY FORTY FIVE ….. and, if I’m lucky I MAY be released in another 18 days.  That will be a total of 63 days for me, but I read rumours that it may not end for everyone at midnight on May 3.  For some, deemed more vulnerable by a DOB issue, it may be longer.  Speriamo that it doesn’t!!!

I was cleaning up a bit yesterday – I focus on one room at a time to ease the boredom – and came across my Fitbit lying forlornly on the bedroom dresser, wondering when it would again be fit for purpose.  I put away a bunch of warmer sweaters that I had been alternating for the sake of variety and my winter boots that were definitely not made for walking, this year anyway. 

I went down into my cellar and found some shorts and t-shirts the other day and in glancing at my new boiler I gave thanks that the weather had warmed up.  In the first four weeks of this quarantine my oil bill for heating was over $1000. Oh well, at least I’m not spending money on anything else.

I love the small shops in Italy with their fresh supplies and their friendly smiles

Then last week when I was all kitted up for my fortnightly shopping, which I dread, I was foiled by a dead battery in my car. Hardly surprising, I have only been out three times in 5 weeks and the shops are but a few kilometres away. Fortunately, my trusty mechanic Claudio was in his garage and he pottered up the hill to install a new battery within the hour and I gave thanks to all the wonderful small businesses in this valley whom I have depended on so much, particularly in the last 8 years when I have been here so frequently.

Our conditions are much more onerous than anywhere else I know of. I have been to the supermarket 4 times and to be honest, it’s not a pleasant experience.  Only 4 people allowed in at the same time, we must be masked and gloved and the line-up is 3-4 metres apart.  I wear clothes that can immediately go into the washing machine. I only take my list (if I remember it)- written out neatly (for the first time in my life) according to how one navigates the shop so I don’t have to retrace my steps. I take a credit card which gets disinfected when I get home. I wear my own gloves, then a pair of theirs to select the fruit and veg and then toss them in the bin as I leave and put on another pair.  When I get home all the shopping stays outside whilst I disinfect the kitchen surfaces and fill the sink with bicarb soda for all the fruit and vegetables.  Everything that comes inside gets wiped down with medical hand wash before it goes away and everything with hard surfaces, and the shopping bags, stay outside for 4-5 days until any possible bleezens (my friend Rozi’s word for all nasties) can die. Then I throw my clothes into the washing machine or isolate them for a week before I wear them again.  Sounds extreme?  Yes, it probably is but this is how we do it here.   Over 162,000 people have been infected in Italy and more than 21,000 have died including around 100 doctors. At least our Comunes are distributing masks to every person in the country.

My barn terrace with its white geraniums

I’ve been trying to revive last year’s geraniums and thankfully, as we didn’t have a harsh winter, many of them will blossom again this year. On my kitchen window sill there are small pots with tiny shoots of sunflower and geranium, and coriander, I hope, and outside I’m waiting for my tomato seeds to shoot. I can’t wait until we can buy plants and seedlings again so I can actually create some magic in my garden, and for Toty to prepare my veggie patch for its annual summer haul.  Or for him to open my pool so I can shed some of those Corona Calories. Speriamo. It seems to be my favourite word these days. We hope. Yes, we do. 

Like many of my friends, I’ve been busy cancelling travel arrangements. London in a week or so for the annual Anzac Commemoration; the 60th birthday party I had planned for 13 of us in Sicily to celebrate Carmel’s milestone; and 2 weeks in New York with my American friend Cynthia for fashion week and my own pre-birthday party. I’m hoping the world is safe enough to travel in later in the year because I am so looking forward to Azerbaijan and Georgia and Armenia which is booked for September, but who knows? Perhaps it will all happen in 2021.  And, to be honest, if I can travel this year, I want to stay in Italy as much as possible and give back to the country I love so much and call home.

From my kitchen window

Anyway stay safe my friends. Thank god for Zoom and crazy pub quizzes and WhatsApp and people who care. And my neighbour who made me a beautiful Easter cake.

Until next time……If I can get to Day 45 and still going, you can too…..

Oh….and Mrs Mouse may surprise you with another appearance shortly…

Baci e un abbraccio…..


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