When we arrive in Castel Rigone, we experience a two-fold shock: Firstly, it is really cold! We hope it’s just a cold spell and not due to the fact that we are rapidly travelling northwards. Secondly, everything looks super neat and tidy, manicured even, and an eerie silence hangs over the village. We walk around, taking in the beautiful vista of Lago Trasimeno on one side and the rolling hills of Umbria on the other, but we are unnerved by the uniform perfection around us. Compared to the rough charm of Southern Italy and Sicily, this doesn’t feel like Italy anymore – it’s more like a wealthy area in Southern France.
In a local shop, we meet Judi, an English woman who fell in love with this area many years ago and more recently decided to move to a tiny house by the roadside. She invites us to come and visit – just follow the road and you’ll see a tiny house with stairs leading up to it. You can’t miss it! Indeed we can’t miss it. Judi is an artist creating children’s stories with a number of home-made, hand made puppets called The Jumbles, and her house is aptly called Jumble House. The steps leading up to the tiny door are decorated with flowers of all colours and other bits and pieces. Even before entering, you meet the world of The Jumbles.
Judi’s artistic talents found a channel when she became grandmother. To make contact with her granddaughter who lived far away in Singapore, she began to create puppets using tights and other bits she found around the house. Using her I-pad, she took photos or film clips and developed stories around the pictures. The backdrop might be the kitchen in her house or a local park, and her puppets, the Jumbles, get up to all sorts of things on a daily basis. Amongst them is a forgetful witch, who gets her spells wrong and creates all sorts of strange things, or the Jumbletufts, who turn up and create order from chaos.
Her granddaughter must be chuffed to have such a productive grandma – there are over 150 clips of the stories on youtube!
Judi tells us about the difficulties of filming in the village without being perceived as completely bonkers. She has to wait until two o’clock, a time in which every self-respecting Italian is indoors, having lunch. Only then does she venture out, armed with her I-pad, a witch and a broomstick, getting herself into strange places and positions to take the photos. It has been known that she’s forgotten to collect all her Jumbles after a shoot and returned the next day to find them still hanging in the same tree where she ‘d left them.
Both Judi and her husband are so quintessentially English in one way and so not at all English in another way, it’s delightful to spend some time with them and hear about their adventures in settling into the Italian culture, brought to the fore in the process of buying a piece of land and building a house. Michael was an accountant and his experiences of the culture clashes in the world of accounting and otherwise dealing with authorities are mind-boggling.
The following day, Judi and Michael repay our visit and come see us in our Emma, which is in fact not much smaller than their house!
When we are about to say good-bye, Judi pulls one of her puppets out of her bag: it’s one of the Jumbletufts and he’s decided to come with us on our journey.
You can find out more about Judi’s creative ventures on her web site Jumblefun.net
For photos of this chapter, including the cold but beautiful sunrises we experienced in those days, click here
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