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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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….

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

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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?

Note Number 19…Valentine’s Day…

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So Many Hearts in the World…

I’m sure that millions of couples are celebrating their love today and that’s all fine, but, spare a thought for those who are alone either because they’ve lost the person closest to them for any number of reasons… or there isn’t anyone special right now. The Man and I don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s day because we think it’s all commercial garbage and we reaffirm our feelings all through the year, not just on February 14th. That’s how it should be, we think. I didn’t know the origins of Valentine’s Day so I ‘googled’ and found this and this and a whole lot more but it’s all a bit confused and quite unromantic to say the least. Take a look for yourselves.

Enjoy your day and maybe knock on the neighbours door if they’re alone and need a cheery greeting…but don’t buy your red roses until tomorrow….when they’ll be at least half the price!

Let’s send our love to those on their own
And blow them a kiss and a light.
To shine like a pearl and give strength
In their hearts all through today and tonight

Let’s send good feelings to those who are lost
And give them our friendship to share
Take more than a minute today, to be sure,
That those less fortunate than you, know you care

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Sending all the above via balloon…

Note Number 18…Facebook Status Asks…’What’s on Your Mind?’..

 

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I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. My children and my grandchildren. I’m worried about their future. I know that history tells us there has always been something for us to worry about, but we NEVER learn from history. I now have some idea of what it must have been like for my parents and grandparents when WW1 and WW2 were looming. I am genuinely afraid that something awful is going to happen within the next five years.

I don’t know what I can do about today’s situation re Brexit and Trump. I’m worried about both of these things and worrying about it doesn’t help the situation. I haven’t marched on any demonstrations and I haven’t shared many political opinion posts on FB. I’m a bit rubbish at standing up for what I believe in I suppose, but I think more than 75% of us are probably the same. I feel threatened by what’s happening but have a cowardly approach towards doing anything constructive about it. I think it’s my age but then I see plenty of people older than me marching and ranting. I am, in short, a wimp. I dread turning on my iPad in the morning to read the news. Who is hating who? What has Trump done now? What’s Putin up to? How many men, women and children have died during my night?…and I am appalled at what I see…Climate Change…there’s another problem. The world is in a tempestuous state and I don’t like it.

I know that the media has become good at selling us dubious news, but Donald Trump IS A FACT and the stuff he’s churning out is terrifying. I have been lucky. Born in 1950 I have had the best of peacetime in the 20th and 21st centuries (so far), in the United Kingdom. I do know that while there has been no, ‘war’ going on here, on our soil, we have been involved in them overseas. I am ignorant of the facts however. I am also ignorant about the real issues behind Brexit. I voted to REMAIN…because I want a united Europe and I believe that the EU was the best way to keep Europe united. I know that the EU has many problems but I think we should have stayed in and sorted them from within. I think that LEAVING…is going to cost us a great deal both economically and socially. I don’t profess to have a political understanding about any of this, but then do many of us? Probably not…but we still voted.

I have a naïve attitude, I want all the people in the world to love each other and to live in peace together. Isn’t that what every normal person wants? But of course, this can never be because there is always, GREED, POWER and RELIGION…In my humble opinion these, three little words cause all the problems. I don’t think I’m greedy, I don’t want power over anybody or anything, and although I don’t have a particular religion that I believe in I’m quite happy for anyone to follow one of their own choosing. Why can’t all mankind think like this?

Note 16…Dog Names…

Jpeg in Dorset January 2017 – 8 years old this March (or thereabouts) 

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ asks a stranger.
‘Jpeg,’ I reply.
‘What? Like the file name?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘How did she come to be called that?’ they ask, with a laugh and sometimes a scoff.

If I have time I tell them…

In 2009, our second summer in Italy, we were preparing a float for the Festa Delle Cove – the festival of corn (like harvest festival) read more here. We were sitting, with friends on a load of straw and picnicking outside our uninhabited and unrestored farmhouse. Along the road, and in through the open gate came three dogs, a brown one, a black and white one and a little sandy coloured puppy. They hung around for a while, ate a few titbits (yes titbits, not tidbits, that’s American apparently, although equally correct). When full, they wandered off into the afternoon sun the same way they’d arrived. A few hours later, the puppy returned alone and was determined to stay. We think the other two dogs might have been her parents and recognised a couple of suckers so sent her back in the hope she would be adopted and no longer be their responsibility.

At the end of the day, we packed up and left to go back up to town and the puppy was still there. ‘If she’s still here tomorrow I’ll think about keeping her. She is so sweet.’ I said. I should add here that I had mentioned, several times over the previous couple of years that I would NEVER have another dog.
Next morning, she was gone, and I was relieved until I saw her sitting on the doorstep of the house at the top of the road. I spoke to our Italian neighbours, ‘Oh, she’s yours? I’m so pleased, I thought she was lost.’
‘No, she’s not ours, I’m taking her to the Comune later today. She’s a stray.’
‘Oh, what will they do with her?’
The neighbour indicated his answer by making a slicing movement with his hand across his throat.
‘No! That’s awful. Please don’t do that. Give me until tomorrow morning to think about it, I didn’t want another dog, but…let me think please…I just have to speak to my other half.’
The neighbour shrugged and agreed, but only for one day, he had to get rid of her the next day.

We went to the bar that night and sat around outside drinking wine and talking, as you do and I told one of our English friends about the little lost puppy.
‘You must keep her Ninette, there’s no question about it. What does she look like?’ This lady was a confirmed dog lover as were most of the people around the table but they weren’t rushing to offer the stray puppy a home you’ll note.
‘Wait a minute, I took some photos today, I’ll go and get one,’ I said and ran home, printed off a photo and scooted back down to the café. (I can’t believe that in 2009 I was still taking all my photos with a camera not a phone…?)

‘Here she is,’ I said and presented the paper to the table and they handed it round with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.
‘Oh look,’ says The Man, ‘It’s Jpeg, see? It says so at the bottom of the page.’
I took the print and yes, that’s what it said under her lovely photo.
JPEG1000236 (see below)

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We kept the puppy, obviously, and the name stuck, she suits it and we like it. I don’t like dogs with ‘people’ names although some are okay. Jpeg is perfect…well, her name is anyway! You can see from the photo her skin was in a terrible condition, she had tics, fleas and goodness know what else. She was very quiet and listless most of the time, really sweet, but she soon perked up and became a bundle of energy needing lots of running and attention! There are a few stories to tell about Jpeg, but I’ll save them for another time.

Tell us how your dog or cat got their name…

Italy September 2009 – skin looking better… Ahh, she was so cute…

Note Number 14…14th January…a Significant Date…

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Today, six years ago in 2011 our family dynamics changed forever. We lost Tosh at the age of 27. He was a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a cousin, and an uncle, all our lives were affected in different ways. Every day that goes by I think of him and a couple of months ago I wrote this poem, trying to capture some of the emotions I felt and still feel and I’m sharing it with you on this post.

Tosh

It is not right
It should not be
That he has left, ahead of me.

He was not done
Nor finished all
Before he took that tragic fall

There’ll never be a wedding now
Or children in whose face I catch
Some semblance of the boy I’ve lost
I wish him back no matter cost

I know

It’s better not to think this way
Of things he’ll never do or say
But just recall the good times had
Don’t dwell on minor things of bad

But then, I make him like a saint
This youth who loved to live and paint
On urban trains and midnight walls.
He didn’t heed friends’ warning calls
Or sirens from the boys in blue
He didn’t think their hearts were true

To him there was no wrong in graff
Sprawling images of this and that
Slashing authority’s senseless laws,
Fighting all the small man’s wars
Against the corporation greed
Upon whose profits politicians feed

He left behind some works of art
On streets, at home, and, in my heart
I know it was his destiny
To leave this world ahead of me.

Thomas Hartley November 30th 1983 – January 14th 2011