Note Number 32…Family…

bearhunt

Popsie (AKA The Man) and granddaughter, out on a bear hunt…he’s really getting into the action. 

I have been fortunate in the last couple of months to catch up with most of my close family members. After six years, my daughter, her husband and two children have relocated from New York to Bristol. It’s great to have them so much closer, even though it’s still a couple of hours door to door, there’s no airports and flying involved.  With FaceTime and Skype readily available the grandchildren know us well and we have been in contact every week while they’ve been living in NYC.  Both of them were born there and the eldest, Evie has a great Brooklyn accent, soon to be lost to the Bristolian brogue perhaps? Emily has been away from England for sixteen years in total, ten of those years spent in Australia. A big change for her and I’m impressed with how she’s coping with it all…so far. But, even the Australian dog seems to be settling in well, enjoying the joys of a garden and less crowded parks. I recall Brooklyn dog walking with mixed feelings.

coming home

Coming Home to England….Emily, Daryl, Evie and Orla…

 

matt in a hat

Matt in a Hat (a big one)…It’s impossible to visit Bridport without popping in to  Snooks the Hatter! 

At the end of May, my son Matt from Thailand came over for a few days, he’s been living away for over 20 years. First in Sydney, Australia, then Singapore and now Thailand. I don’t think he’ll ever come back to the UK. It was lovely to see him and even better that we all managed to get together for an evening in Bristol…at least most of us, Wills, the photographer couldn’t make it due to work commitments but he did meet up with his brother in London. Joe, (Will’s twin), who is a nurse, working and living in Bristol was with us. Of course, at our family gatherings there’s always one missing and that is Tosh, tragically lost to us in January 2011. But that’s another story which I think most of my readers know about already.

No photos of all of us in May 2017 but here’s one from the past…2009. An oldie but goodie and we’re ALL in it, including The Man’s lovely girls Jackie and Lottie.  We’ve changed a bit since then mind (how’s that for Westcountry speak?) and not just the hair colour. We’ll have to do another family shoot next time we’re all in the same hemisphere and include the new members…

The Family

Italy 2009 

At the beginning of June The Man and I took a trip to Menorca to visit my brother and his wife. They’ve been living abroad for many years…over thirty I believe. It was a fleeting visit and we certainly packed a whole lot of stuff into three days. My brother drove us the full length of the island from Mahon (he lives close to here) to Ciutadella, where we had lunch. Then back to the middle and up Monte Toro the large mountain. The weather, which was a little inclement for only one day, cleared as we got to the top, so we were able to appreciate the view.

the view as the clouds cleared

View as the clouds cleared from Monte Toro

The rest of the time we were there, we spent sunbathing, eating, drinking and sleeping…all the ingredients needed for a good holiday!

Both pictures are the port at Mahon…the boat on the right The Man thought was best suited to us…ha ha ha I’m not keen on any boats but I guess I could make an exception for this one. #dreamonbaby

Top Left: the pool, top right: My brother Tony and wife Maggie (he’s older than me…just so you know). Middle Right: plate of delicious baby squid. Bottom: Me and The Man enjoying outside, evening dining,  at Restaurant Tamarindos, in the lovely village of Es Grau. 

menorca

shoes copy

Loved these Menorca shoes called Abarcas…I bought three pairs and can’t wait to go back and buy more

jeanandme copy

Me and my sister Jean (she’s older than me in case you wondered) 

I even managed to catch up with my sister in the month of May, haven’t seen her in ages but I drove up from Dorset to Surrey to visit her for just one night. It’s important to do these things as and when you can. She’s just become a grandmother…such a wonderful thing to be. I’m loving it.

Being Nonna

Fun Being Nonna (it’s Italian for Grandmother)…not sure what kind of mystical animal I was being made into…

window shopping

Window shopping on the Gloucester Road…makes a little girl very happy…

Take care everyone. Despite the awful events occurring in the UK and the rest of the world, there are also many good things going on. Oh dear…I do write such trite at times… ha ha ha. Enjoy the lovely weather, your families and friends and be sure to visit them and/call them as often as you can.

Note Number 31…Garden v Election Campaign…

me with whiterose

The white roses match my hair colour! 

I am, like many people I know, confused/worried about the forthcoming election and the coverage is endless on FaceBook, Twitter, the News…it cannot be escaped. I do take it all seriously, probably more now that I’m older, than at any other time in my life. But, today is June 1st, and a beautiful sunny day, so I took myself out into the garden, to clear my head and get away from the constant barrage of ‘party political verbal onslaughts’ and to clear the weeds, (some of them anyway) and tidy up.  I’m proud of what we have achieved so far in our little patch of Dorset but there’s still plenty to do. I’m hoping that a reader will be able to identify a couple of plants for me. If you know what the two below are please post in the comments box.

Anyone know what the plant on the left is? And the one on the right, is this a chrysanthemum or a dahlia…or neither? 

I’m loving the roses…look out Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (joke!)

Top left is a white climber…top right is ‘Queen of Sweden’ and the bottom is the prettiest rambling rose, it so belongs in our cottage garden…

Left, Antirrhinums (I think) and on the right the sweet peas are coming on well… no flowers yet but I’m hoping for a bumper crop! 

me with lupins

Check out the lupins! My dad would be proud of me…

I’m tempted to say that after a whole morning in the garden I’m veering towards green…

Note Number 29…Amsterdam for some but Kenilworth and Manchester for me…

Leaving from Crewkerne…arrival in Amsterdam (photo  credit MoreAdventure )

The Man cycled from London to Amsterdam last week. Leaving Blackheath early on Thursday morning the 4th May and arriving in Amsterdam on the evening of Sunday the 7th May. Well done him. The route was London–Dover-Calais-Bruges-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. He said that whilst the route was pretty flat, the wind was against them and the weather not as good as they had hoped but he’s done it! Next trip is just a short hop on Sunday from Watchet to West Bay. Coast to Coast to raise money for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance – only 78 miles a snip for my man. Good on him I say.

While he was away, I spent a little bit of time in the garden putting in plants, weeding etc., and walking the dog.

Jpegfield

Loving the Meadows at the Moment

milkbottle

The sight of this milk in the delivery crate reminded me of being a young girl. In the winter the birds always used to peck through the metallic cap and enjoy the cream from the top of the milk!

 Friday, I took Jpeg to the kennels and took myself to Kenilworth in Warwickshire. A visit to my lovely ex-mother-in-law who is almost 92. It was great to see her still living independently albeit not as lively as she might have been in her younger days, she’s still got a marvellous sense of humour and makes the most of  things.  I hope, if I live to be in my 90s I will be as game as she is. She is full of memories, as are so many people her age and it’s a pleasure to listen to her reminisce.

Ma-inlaw

Good old Mother-in-Law, always a smile and a story to tell. 

While in Kenilworth I met up with a writing colleague for the first time. Jo Derrick. We had communicated up to this point, only on Facebook, messenger, twitter and email for at least two if not three years. Often, when you eventually meet up, it can be awkward, difficult or just plain wrong but not in this case. We had a fabulous evening and there was hardly a pause in the conversation. We covered a wide variety of topics and discovered who our ‘mutual’ writing friends were. Can’t wait to meet up again. The writing fraternity are a sharing caring lot – on the whole.

Jonme

Fun with Jo Derrick…looking forward to the next meeting…

For the weekend I drove on up to Manchester to visit friends we had made whilst living in Italy. During May, I have now seen almost everyone from our little town in Italy who lives in England! It was a busy time in Manchester. Walking, eating, drinking and talking.

Beautiful Countryside at Styal Mill Grounds – and I loved this vibrant pink Rhododendron.

On Sunday evening we had a barbecue and were joined by a young French friend of mine, who could not relax until the results of the French Election were announced. Thankfully, the election of Macron was a relief – so the whole table cheered and we drank a toast.

FRANCE-BASTILLE-DAY

Macron…Let’s see what happens next…

The conversation inevitably turned to political situation in the UK and I don’t mind telling you that I have no idea what will happen to this country on June 8th. I have never before been so unsure of my vote. I do not know to which party I want to pledge my vote. I’m pretty clear as to who I don’t want to vote for but the choice of the others does not fill me with too much inspiration either. I reckon, we, the public, are constantly fed a load of rubbish by the government and the main opposition and I, like many other people, want hear some solid facts, policies and sense. But it seems that is not the way things are done. I didn’t want to come out of the EU and now that article 50 has been triggered, as I understand it, we can’t stop the inevitable even if the public changed their minds and voted to stay in, should they be given the opportunity. I believe, we would have to re-negotiate joining…what a palaver. Between now and June the 8th I will read as much as I can but how much can you believe? And when will the different political parties stop knocking each other and start telling us what their own party plans are for this country and how they intend to fulfill any promises they might rashly make? That is the question.

Happy Days.

Collected The Man from St Pancras on Monday night having driven down from Manchester and after a brief stay in the big smoke we at last arrived back in Dorset. It’s good to travel but it’s oh so good to come home…

Garden

 

 

home

…and the dog agrees…

Note Number 26… My Husband is A Cyclist…

cyclist copy

My husband is a cyclist and says he’s not obsessed
He doesn’t have just one bike but a couple, more or less
There’s one for the winter with disc brakes and thick tyres
And another for the summer months when, with the effort he perspires
Then of course there is the spinner that he sets up here at home
When the weather is against him and he can’t go out and roam

He’s found himself some special shoes, three pairs of them he’s got
They each fit to different pedals and of those he has a lot
I don’t understand any of it, it’s way beyond my grasp
I only had a bike for shopping, in the dim and distant past
That had simply three gears for helping on the hills
Nowadays, there’s twenty-three, enhanced with little pills

The weight has dropped off by the stone and he’s looking young and fit
And now the lycra’s not so stretched around the lumpy bit
More padding needed round the back and butt cream, liberally spread
When he reaches home after 100k, he sometimes looks half dead
He really loves all three bikes, but not more than he loves me
It’s the Strava App he’s constantly on, that causes jealousy

He uses it for logging all the rides, with hills, and speeds,
His buddies upload comments on their each and every feed
It’s a bit like Facebook for those on bikes, or swimming or a run
They strive to beat their highest goals and say it’s all in fun
But underneath the jolly remarks there lies a green eyed streak
And woe betide the person who makes fun of the Strava geek

So, my husband is a cyclist, he rides the hills and vales
In the rolling Dorset countryside for miles, and miles of trails
I’m not a clinging wife which is probably just as well
And I’m happy to let him pursue whatever rings his bell
As it keeps him out of trouble and gives me quality time
To write a bit of fiction, or complete another rhyme

Ninette Hartley April 2017©

Note 23…Spring Flowers and A Mixed Bag of Waffle…Plastic not Acceptable…

It’s funny how people chat about the weather and the seasons and the time of year.

Lower Ash Farm Flowers

Beautiful Spring Flowers at Higher Ash Farm. A public footpath goes right through the farmyard…how lovely to see this display for walkers to appreciate. 

“Clocks will soon be going forward,” says one. “Can’t wait for the lighter evenings.” says another. “Have you seen all the Spring flower out? They’re amazing. Makes one feel good.”

Yes, it does make you feel good to see the daffodils, primroses, snowdrops in the hedgerows and in the gardens too. I’m loving England right now. I’m missing the warmer days that are probably around in Italy at the moment but there’s nothing like an English Spring day when  sun comes out.

If only everybody could love the countryside as I do and please stop throwing rubbish out of windows or deliberately dropping waste paper or litter out of their pockets onto the road. There is much publicity at the moment about the plastic being dumped into our seas and oceans but what about the stuff that is strewn everywhere. This habit of chucking stuff out isn’t confined to the countryside, the towns and cities are as bad. The only difference is there is perhaps more wildlife in country areas than urban, who could be affected by the crap people dispose of in any way they wish.

I have been collecting from the side of the road but sometimes I can’t reach a plastic cup or can when it’s been chucked out of a lorry window because it’s too high for me to reach.

Why do we have we need to use so much plastic? Why can’t we go back to paper bags for food and glass bottles for drinks. I particularly hate the fast food containers, those yellow polystyrene burger boxes and massive plastic beakers with lids and plastic straws through a hole in the top.

I hate these containers 

When I was younger, I used to love it in the American films when people went to the grocery store they carried it all home in a brown paper bag which they held in their arms. I thought that looked so cool. Now, everyone is laden down with several plastic carrier bags. Even me! I try to remember to take my ‘bag for life’ into the shop with me but so often I forget them and leave them in the car.

woman with shopping bag copy

NEW RESOLUTION – If I forget the bags I will put everything back in the trolley or the basket, take it to the car and pack it there.

Please can we go back to wrapping the Fish and Chips in Newspaper. Return to glass bottles that you pay a deposit for and then return. Food that you can buy and wrap up in paper, not pre-wrapped in, impossible-to-open, hard plastic. That goes for other commodities too, practically everything you purchase is impenetrably packed, in a completely sealed unit that you need some implement not yet invented to release the said article before it can be used…phew!

Oh…I’ve only just started on this…I feel a few bullet points coming on…

  1. Why do many magazines have to be put into clear plastic bags?
  2.  What’s the point of screws and nails being sold in packets of 50 or 100, bring back the old hardware shops.
  3. Ban take-away foods – no – on second thoughts just ban the ghastly packaging.
  4. Ban all plastic packaging
  5. Ban plastic plates, knives and forks…who needs them anyway?
  6. What’s wrong with using proper cutlery and crockery when you go out for a picnic? As a matter of fact the Italians are the worst culprits, they will serve up a complete meal on a plastic plates; pasta, meat and finishing with desserts. That’s three plastic plates for every person attending, tut tut.
  7. (I suppose we could go back to paper plates).
  8. Why is that we cannot put black plastic containers in the recycling bin? (in West Dorset that is).
  9. Ban mega stores, bring back rural bus routes, village shops and town-centre shopping…

Okay, I’m going off the point now. Time to stop waffling and have a cup of tea. I’ll be moaning about dog walkers next time…

Note Number 21…One for his knob…

“ Fifteen two, fifteen four and a pair is six…Oh and one for his knob,” I say
“Oh blimey are you two playing that game again?” says my daughter.
It’s me and The Man playing Cribbage. We do it all the time.

two-card-players-copy

This is NOT a true representation of me or The Man…but I kinda think the look on her face might be reminiscent of the look on my face when I’m winning….

The Man and I have spent a great deal of time on our own together, which we like. We are happy in each other’s company. (Watch the comments section for a cynical reply!). When we were in Italy, we watched some DVDs but not much television but, we enjoyed and still enjoy playing cards. He taught me to play Cribbage which we love and whilst recently in Madeira we had a tournament, which he won 7 – 5. We usually decide the criteria of our battles and after the Madeira clash, on our return we did the End Of February, tournament. However, we didn’t have that much spare time so only three games. I won 2 – 1. Next one up will be the whole of March, The Spring Event which could be a lot of games – we’ll see. Rules and guidance for how to play here.

cribbage

Cribbage: Cards, board for pegging, dealer button (we always need this because we forget who’s dealing) 

We rarely argue when playing cards but it does sometimes get a little heated. I think I’m a good loser but hate it if it’s a complete trouncing. He thinks he’s a good loser but as he doesn’t experience it that often how can we tell? Oh, yes I do remember once the table being thrust from underneath sending the cards scattering everywhere meaning I couldn’t add up the points to find out exactly how many million points I had beaten him by. That was in the early days, it never happens now…

pinochle

Our well used Pack of Pinocle Cards

The other card game for two that we play is Pinochle, (pronounced peaknuckle) It’s an American game with two parts to it, melding and winning tricks and counting up the card values at the end. It’s played with two packs containing only the cards from 9 – Ace (Ace being a high scoring card). I like Pinochle, it has some strategy to it and isn’t just down to luck. You can see the rules and how to play here.

burraco

Burraco is probably our favourite game. We learnt it while living in Italy and it’s a very popular game there – it originates from Uruguay, but now I think the Italians have adopted it as their own. You can play with just two but it’s better with at least four. It’s a partner game and a complicated game to explain but suffice it to say, it’s a cross between Canasta and Rummy. It’s played with two packs, including the jokers, 108 cards in all. You have to learn the value of the cards and you have to make a run of at least seven cards of the same suit or, seven cards of the same value. These seven cards are called a Burraco. Twos and Jokers are wild. It’s a great game and the Italians play it with great passion to the point of being scary. Heaven help you if an Italian is your partner and you make a mistake!

cards-1-copy

The Guy on the Left is Obvioualy Italian…. 

When we first got back to England we missed our Burraco evenings with friends or at the club in Valmir. So, we’ve taught our new neighbours in Dorset to play the game and now play with them every week. We need to teach a few more people so that we can have a proper tournament every now and then. An early start is advised – this never happened in Italy. They have to have their supper before they arrive and the first game doesn’t begin until after nine-thirty! Many nights, The Man and I have travelled up the hill from Valmir to Petritoli at one-thirty in the morning feeling weary and Burracoed-out, sometimes having eaten a bowl of pasta around midnight. Rules for Burraco are here

burraco2

Of course some of you out there will be Bridge players and no doubt swear that this is the only game worth playing. We’ve tried it, but couldn’t get on with it. Too many conventions and too many complications for my brain.

I think you’re either a card/game player on not. I would mostly prefer to play a game than watch TV – but I do enjoy a good drama series…Ooh, that reminds me, the new Broadchurch has started, will have to get stuck into that!

Note Number 20…A Glimpse of Madeira and the High Life…

The Hotel Taken from the pool and Reid’s Tea Terrace 

We have just returned from an amazing ten-day holiday at Reid’s Hotel in Funchal Madeira. It was a holiday of a lifetime, (apologies for the cliché).
We should have been travelling to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, but after a busy 2016 I just couldn’t face the lengthy flights, but, we wanted a little bit of winter sun so ended up in Madeira, spending about the same money as a two-month vacation in the Southern Hemisphere! However, I’m not sorry.

The hotel did not disappoint and the room with a promised view of the sea, was spacious, with a desk and two armchairs as well as an enormous bed. A luxury marble bathroom and separate WC. I loved it! Reid’s has been around for 125 years and the atmosphere is unique. Photographs of rich and famous people who have visited in the past are kept in glass cases in a large walk-through lounge which joins the old hotel to the new bit (you can’t tell the difference between the two).

Room with a View…and early morning sun…

The gardens at Reid’s are tropical and lush with paths and seating areas throughout. I cannot emphasise the beauty of the place enough. The staff at the hotel were friendly and rushed about attending to our every need and appeared to enjoy their job. I don’t generally like being waited on, but they made me feel as though it was no trouble at all and that they genuinely wanted to help make our holiday the best it could be. On the tables by the pool there were little buzzers that you could use to call a waiter.

img_3125

The Buzzer or Call Button…

It took me about half an hour to pluck up the courage to ring it one morning, as it seemed such a decadent thing to do, but when the smiley waitress arrived, happy to serve me with a cocktail and a sandwich all my concerns vanished. Other guests were similar to us. I had expected a lot of stuck up toffs but on the whole they were ordinary people enjoying spending their well-earned money. There were of course a few whose opinions and demands could be heard above all others. But, as one waiter told us, ‘We learn to be just friendly enough and we respond to how we are treated, if the person doesn’t smile or speak well to us, then we serve them but we don’t make good conversation. We leave them alone and give them the bare minimum.’ Most of the older staff have been with Reid’s for many years, over twenty at least, which has to be a good sign. Although the hotel was originally family owned, it is now in the hands of Belmond (new branding for Orient Express) but, essentially, the atmosphere remains that of a family run business. That is probably the secret of its success. A grand hotel which feels like home from home.

A little slide show for you….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We didn’t manage to take a basket sledge because by the time we had reached the top of the hill on the cable car it was too late…another time perhaps.

The breakfast was the best spread I have ever seen in a hotel, there was literally everything you can imagine, the choice was unlimited…fresh fruit, cereals, bread, croissants, pastries, cheese, ham, smoked salmon and other fish, plus bacon, eggs, vodka and champagne, etc., there was literally everything you could wish for.

Amazing Breakfast…and…

Amazing Desserts…and…

img_3141

Amazing Tea on Reid’s Tea Terrace… (oh and we also had scones).  By the way, the little round brown cake at the back with an almond on the top I believe is a Madeira Cake…they don’t have anything like the pale lemon flavoured cake that we know as Madeira…how about that? 

I have been thoroughly spoilt and The Man was responsible. We did attend the fitness centre (him everyday and me for seven out of the ten) and tried only to eat breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner never the three. On two occasions we ate breakfast and then a Reid’s tea. We walked from the hotel to Câmara De Lobos, about 7.5k…we got a taxi back then I went swimming and The Man went to the gym. Câmara De Lobos, was a place often visited by Churchill where he sat and painted the little fishing village. He also stayed regularly at Reid’s with Clementine, I believe.

img_3362

Câmara De Lobos – Churchill’s Favourite Village on Madeira (so we’re led to believe…)

Random Snippets about Madeira…

It’s an island in the Atlantic approximately 1000k South of Portugal and close to 600k from the North African coast.

over-the-sea

Over the Sea and Far Away…Madeira sits in the Atlantic…

 It has several micro climates so you cannot easily predict the weather but it is warm most of the time. We experienced between 13 and 23 degrees for our ten-day stay. Rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon or vice versa. Five of our days were sunshine all the way.
Bananas grow everywhere.

img_3196

Bananas – taken through the mini bus window…hence the reflection

img_3206

Sugar Cane also grows in Madeira

Espada (pronounced ESHPAADA)is the local fish and it is not pretty . Apparently it looks a bit like an ugly eel. We were told that it is line fished from more than 2000 metres deep in the sea around Madeira and that when it is pulled up the pressure causes the fish to burst so that all the innards come out negating the requirement to gut and clean the thing…sounds disgusting doesn’t it? You eat it pan-fried with banana, if you want to have it in the traditional way.

Limpet Rice served with Espada and Banana…

The poncha drink is local rum, honey and lemon… (It tasted a bit medicinal I think)
Tea at Reid’s hotel is a must for any tourist.

img_3245Poncha…as drunk by me…

Madeira has the highest cliff in Europe and you can stand at the top of it and look down through a glass platform.

img_3216

It’s a Long Way Down…

There are Levada (irrigation channnels) walks that can be taken but we didn’t go on this occasion, but if you want to see more look here

img_3211

Somewhere in this photo is a Levada Walk…I know because our guide Christina said so…

A replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria is moored in Funchal and does daily trips out to sea…not sure it’s entirely propelled by sails now though….

Painted Doors in Old Funchal Town….

There was so much to see and do in Madeira, we merely covered a few of them. A day trip out took us to the North side of the island and the weather was very changeable from wild, windy, misty and wet…to sunny and bright, although the sea remained monstrous.

Changeable on the North Coast…these photos were taken less than ten minutes apart.

One of very few places on the list for a return visit…Have you been?