Well, well, well!

At last the temperatures began to fall a little on the 26th August (the day we celebrated the feast of San Fiacre (the patron saint of gardeners, he also the saint of haemorrhoid sufferers!)  The days following continued hot but with promises of rain and cooler temperatures that never arrived.  Then on Friday 31st August it was overcast and cloudy all day and the temperature dropped by about 10° centigrade.  Sunday and Tuesday it rained wonderful gentle rain, I call it English rain because normally Italian rain is torrential.  But this was perfect garden rain, slowly, very slowly soaking into the ground.  Already the drought tolerant plants that had curled their leaves to help avoid water loss have uncurled them and the garden looks ‘fuller’.  The night temperature has also fallen by about 10° C, this means I can sleep and that the plants get further respite from the heat and sun.  In August the temperatures at night were between 24 to 28°, now they’ve fallen to a comfortable 18° C.

Thank goodness it did rain as on Friday night evening we discovered the pump in the well wasn’t working, in fact every time the pump tried to switch on it blew the main fuse of the house!  We isolated the fuse for the pump and called the plumber.  He came on Saturday morning and appeared to wave his magic wand and the pump worked for half a day; then during the afternoon the same thing started happening again.  So we had a third of a tank of water to last us until Monday morning when the plumber could return.

I’ve always valued water and been grateful for it and careful about how much I use.  When all your water, for the house and garden comes from a well you are very aware of its value.  We had been told that our well was 100 metres deep, this means a very powerful pump and an autoclave are needed to circulate water all around the house.  So, the plumber arrived, realised that before the arduous job of lifting the pump from the well it would be good to check all the electric circuitry.  Monday happened to be the day when Viterbo celebrates its Saint by carrying a ‘100 foot high tower’ around the town; my electrician is one of the 100 men who carry the tower (they’re called Facchini or porters) so he couldn’t come, every number we called was busy doing something for the BIG day.  Finally my electrician found someone he trusted who could help.  But he couldn’t fix the problem.  The pump was hauled out of the well, at this point we discovered that it is, in fact, 54 metres deep rather than the 100 we’d been told; the men were pleased about that!  The electric cable needed replacing and the pump itself was corroded by the minerals in the water.  However the plumber thought he could clean it and that it would work for a year or so longer and it was his advice that we didn’t need to purchase a new pump just yet.  He tested it above ground, it was working WRONG!  The pump was lowered back down the well, switched on – the main fuse blew again!!! Oh no! they’d have to heave it out of the well again and we needed to buy a new pump – it was lunch time so of course all the shops, including trade shops were closed until 2.30 (this is Italy – everything closes for lunch!)  The men went to eat (lunch time for them too, of course), there was virtually no water left in the tank at all now.  But at least with Sunday’s rain the garden didn’t need watering for a couple of days.

The new pump was fitted after lunch and hopefully all is now working properly.  But those 3 days with only the minimum amount of water really demonstrated that without water it is impossible to live (of course we all know that in an abstract way but actually LIVING without water SHOWS you).

If the pump had failed just a week previously I would have lost every plant in the vegetable garden and many other plants in the garden might not have recovered a further reduction in water.  I FEEL SO LUCKY!

Here are a few images of the 100 foot ‘tower’ that is carried through the streets of Viterbo.  The design of the ‘tower’ is changed every 5 years or so. This is not my favourite design but seeing the beginning, when they lift the tower in the air is very emotional.  The facchini take the last rites before beginning; as it has been known for a facchino to die during the transportation.

The ‘tower’ still inside its scaffolding support. The white figures are the facchini (porters)

The facchini praying in front of the macchina and being blessed by the bishop of Viterbo. Local dignitaries look on including the major.

The macchina is lifted to loud cheers, the band begins to play the special facchini tune and the transportation begins.

21 thoughts on “Well, well, well!

  1. That really is an amazing spectacle, I must admit to being extremely ignorant of all things Italian. It looks as if the whole area is joining in.
    Glad to hear the water situation has started to ease. There is nothing like real rain for the garden. I am still waiting for my turn. Amelia

  2. I am on a well, too, so I know how precious water is, and how upsetting having the pump go out would mean. Three days without water would surely make you (and your gardens) appreciate every drop. The tower is amazing! It gave me pause when you said they take last rites before doing this. That gives it an entirely different perspective.

  3. So glad you have had some life giving rain and that your garden is recovering. Also glad to hear that you have a new pump for your well, that was certainly a worrying time for you.
    About 10 yrs ago we had a holiday in Ireland and found a garden dedicated to St.Fiacre, it was very simple, just silver birch trees, a lake with waterfall, monks cells and a statue of the saint sitting by the waterfall with seeds in his hand, really beautiful in its simplicity.

    • There was a typo on the post. The date of the feast of San Fiacre is 30th August (although other dates are also celebrated). A group of garden lovers in viterbo meet on the nearest Sunday to the 30th August, this year it was the 26th. That was the typo, when first published it said that the weather cooled on the 2th instead of the 26th! I wish it had been earlier.

  4. Some rain at last for you must be a relief. Finally summer has arrived here with a week of lovely weather so far. Not hot by any means but really pleasant at around 22 C.

    The festival looks like an amazing display. The tower is spectacular. It’s fascinating how the Saints are still so important to the Italians.

    • I’m so glad you’re getting some summer at last! I think the carrying of the ‘tower’ is almost more important than celebrating the saint herself. The city has a huge market the following day which I imagine in the past was the only time people could buy certian things, now it’s just a normal market. It is also a public holiday for the city. Christina

  5. I started reading this thinking thank goodness she has had rain. I then went through a whole oh no bit and then arh lovely when I got to the photos – not quite your emotional rollercoaster with your pump though.

    Thank you for sharing the photos – they look amazing.

  6. so glad you have finally had rain Christina and your temps have dropped, glad the well pump has been sorted and I feel you only have to listen to all the stories of people suffering in the world due to a lack of water to know how precious it is when it’s not there,

    when I was in Spain I saw men carrying huge statues of saints and told men pass out due to the weight, it must be stifing for those in the middle, I was also told it is a great honour to be one of the chosen men, the tower looks amazing, Frances

    • Yes I agree we should think about the people of the world who don’t have water more often; but I do think that for most people living in the UK; it is not something they can really relate to – the temperatures are never anywhere as high and few people actually think about how much water they waste. Christina

  7. Hurrah for the rain, and thank goodness it arrived and the temperature dropped before the pump failure. Though I think the pump could have waited until after that extraordinary festival to give up the ghost… Losing all those plants after the summer you have had would have been beyond depressing.

    I’m a little obsessed about water at the moment. We are about to go on a water meter, which should save us money, provided we fix the dripping taps. And although the roofs are now water tight, the wet room floor is leaking, so that area still won’t dry out. Plus I need to work out where best to position the water butts. As I do all this, I am concious that most people in this country don’t even think about water usage. They use drinking water for their lawns and plants without even considering alternatives. And why would they, since unless they live in the South East there is so much rain. So we waste this oh, so precious resource running the tap while we clean our teeth, or by having ever more powerful power showers fitted in our luxury bathrooms. I’m sure this will have to change in time, and that we will see water rights becoming more and more of a global concern. In the meant time, I am glad you have your own water source and hope you continue to be able to use it. For myself, I wish there was a more straight forward – and cheaper – way to use grey water for flushing toilets. How ludicrous is that, using drinking water to flush a toilet!!

    Sorry, that appears to have turned into a bit of a rant!

    • Hi Janet, I approve of the rant! This summer has made me even more aware of the individual water needs of different plants, were I designing the garden now, I would change many things and use even more swathes of plants that are drought tolerant using them as the backdrop for very slightly more thirsty plants; I don’t have any really thirsty plants aleady. Christina

    • hope you don’t mind Christina this is a sort of comment on Janet’s rant, when I was a child an aunt who lived in the midlands had a rain butt above the roof of her loo which flushed the loo, I sometimes feel we (society) have moved backwards, why are modern houses not built like this, not expecting an answer, tap water often isn’t even good for plants, not exactly ranting here, thanks Christina for giving us lots to think about, Frances

  8. I enjoyed this post very much.I can appreciate how precious water is, and I am glad you got your pump fixed, just in time! I am also happy to hear your weather has improved. Thanks for a look at the facchini carrying that amazing tower. I was unfamiliar with this Italian custom.

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