Note Number 60. . .Breaking News. . .They’ve Cracked it. . .(excuse the puns). . .

Nest of Eggs

 Clutch of Eggs 

The Blue Maran, Soufflé, (we think) has LAID SOME EGGS. Six of them to be precise. A nice half-dozen. I thought she might have shot them out all at once but, I was put right by the farmer’s wife, who told me, (whilst falling about laughing at my ignorance), that the hen will only lay one egg a day. So she must have made her secret nest a while ago and started laying. The farmer found them in the paddock — lucky no-one else found them first. The grass in the area needs strimming and the farmer has not had time to do it yet. The Man is busy cycling in The Alps, I can’t get him over the road to lend a hand right now. But, as soon as he returns, whether he likes it or not, he’ll have to help out. Otherwise, no eggs for him!

Soufflé and her eggs

From Field to Table. Delicious Breakfast

Thank you girls! Beautiful yellow yolks.

Note Number 59…Meet The Girls…

hens‘You BOUGHT sweetcorn for them? You paid money for something to feed them when they’re happy with scraps?’ My farming neighbour was incredulous.
‘Well, it wasn’t from Waitrose,’ I said.
I was visiting my new hobby which I am able to enjoy at the farm opposite our cottage.

I had an idea a while ago, that I would like to keep some hens but there’s no room in our garden, so I approached my neighbour and asked her if she would allow me to buy three hens, to join her three and then there would be six, and I could have some of the eggs. Yeah! I was quite happy to pay for food etc., and she agreed with the arrangement.  I don’t think she thought I would be quite so ‘silly’ about my girls.

At the end of July I went to Forde Abbey Fair… bought 3 young ‘point of lay’ hens, put them in a box and brought them back to Wooth. They had to spend a couple of hours in a vacant dog kennel at the farm because, apparently, it was better to introduce them to the others in the hen-house, during the hours of darkness. Don’t ask me why, perhaps it has something to do with the moon. They seemed happy enough the next day, but were kept inside the small run for a few days, this is enclosed within a much larger run for daytime use. It’s taken a while for them all to settle down and get to know each other. A few days later I was told they were running in the big pen by the farmer, ‘Your pullets are out!’ he shouted across the road. I made a quick check about my person before I realised what he meant. Then rushed over to check my little darlings.

I’ve called them, Soufflé, (a Blue Marane), Coddle (A Columbia Black Tail), and Meringue, an Amber Star. Much better names than those suggested by my neighbours which were, Kiev, Chasseur and Cockauvin!!  Needless to say, I preferred to call them by the egg related dishes.

The little Darlings

From the left:  Soufflé, Meringue, and Coddle – Meet the Girls 

For a week or so, there were two groups of three hens, hers and mine. Integration is taking time. Nothing is laying anything at the moment. I hope my little chickadees haven’t upset the equilibrium. . .

Rest assured, I will be ‘clucking’ twitter logo copyas soon as  I get my first egg!

I could watch them for hours…

Note Number 55…If you can’t beat ’em Join ’em…

bikers

The Man and I in a few years time…

I have succumbed, I have given in, it was not my intention EVER to say yes but I have…and now, I am the proud owner of a bicycle … it is an E-bike which means it has a battery and can help me up the hills. Without this I would definitely not have said yes. Since we relocated to the UK from Italy, a couple of years ago, The Man has been cycling mad. This year he has planned many long, day rides (100 – 200k) and a big ride from St Malo to Nice in June (fifteen days I think) We are leaving on the ferry from Poole at the end of May, driving around France staying one, two, three nights here there and everywhere and he plans to ride almost every morning to keep up the fitness before the big ride. I’m going to abandon him and leave him to cycle across France and I’ll collect him from Bristol airport a couple of weeks later. I don’t think I’ll be attempting anything too adventurous on my bicycle, but you never know.

Jpeg waiting

‘When we’re in France you can walk the dog and I’ll ride the bike, I’ll be back by lunchtime and then we can do whatever you like,’ he said.

I wasn’t so sure about this arrangement and the dog didn’t look too happy about it either. I could tell what she was thinking.

‘I don’t mind being in the car for a few days then stopping in one place for a month where I can lay in the sun and chill. But, stop, start, stop, start every other day and only putting my paws on terra firma for a maximum of three days in one place does not sound like fun for me.’

dog thinking

Jpeg…’thinking’ 

 

I took her advice and booked her into the kennels for 19 days — not sure that was quite what she had in mind.

kennels

I’ve been out on my bike several times and I love it. I’m not hooked (yet) and I’m not out there trying to win any Strava segments or be Queen of the Dorset hills, but I’m happy to pedal along and zap up the power when I need it. The battery only works if you pedal, so you can never just sit there and do nothing, unless you’re going downhill of course. I’ve been shopping a couple of times and have to carry stuff home in a back pack — but, not for long, the panniers have been ordered. Not exactly the same as the ones below as mine will be blue.

bike panniers

 

I cannot wait to get to France and cycle along the Loire Valley, stop in a beautiful place and wait for The Man to join me (as I can get up the hills faster than him) for a picnic, which I will have transported.  I will lay back on the grass, snooze a bit and be inspired to write — I hope.

The dog, may not get off so lightly. I’m investigating the ‘harness and lead’ for bike riders so she can run along beside me. She doesn’t know what she’s in for!

 

My bike is a Volt Pulse LS Step Through E-bike from Volt bikes at London Bridge. I think I got the last one! LOVE IT.

Note Number 41…Sober October and more…

nawineLining up the non-alcoholic wines…they’re not bad. Not too sweet. The two on the right I bought from Waitrose and the one on the left from the Co-op (yet to be tested)

I spent from the end of September until Saturday 4th November without a drop of alcohol. When you tell people this the first thing they ask is, ‘do you feel any better for it?’ The honest answer is that I’m not sure, because I think the autumn weather (wet and windy), and preparing myself for the clock change at the end of October…do not bode well for me. I like warm sunshine and dry fields and whilst I love sitting by the fire in the dark evenings, reading a book and watching a film on the telly I find myself feeling ‘wintry’ as in not inspired to do very much but hibernate. Is that a good way to feel? I think not. Something has to be done about it.

woodburner

I love the wood burning stove…a necessity for hibernating. 

Get out and about, visit Bridport, attend some writing workshops, go to the library, walk the dog and don’t succumb to the winter blues. So that’s what I’m planning and have already implemented as far as I can.

First workshop attended was at Waterstones, in Dorchester. Organised by the Dorset Writers’ Network and led by Rosanna Ley. A group of twelve writers of varying experience, spent two hours listening, creating and having fun on the subject of ‘Sense of Place’. Making sure that your writing gets a true picture of where your story is set and bringing reality to the internal and external scenes that you write. I came away feeling inspired and keen to get on with at least one of my half-written novels, so that has to be good. I began reading through a manuscript this morning…or should I say trudging…think I need to make some drastic changes! Open book with glasses

We are members of the Bridport Film Society (in fact I’m on the committee, not wanting to boast or anything) so every other Tuesday from now until March we can go and see an International film at the Bridport Arts Centre. This week is is Julietta ‘an exquisite study of a mother-daughter relationship tested though trying times…’ Sounds interesting eh? It’s a Spanish film with subtitles. I know some people hate subtitles but I love them because I love watching foreign films and I hate it when they’re dubbed.

Walking the dog has become something of a difficulty because of the muddy fields when it’s necessary to wear Wellington boots. These are hard to step out in and generally I end up with back ache at the end of even a half-hour walk. My decision is to put on the Wellies in the morning,  take the dog to the nearest field, let her run for 5k while I walk for 1.5k then bring her home. In the afternoon I will put on an ordinary pair of lightweight walking shoes, take to the roads and do another 3k. This is my plan but we all know about my plans and how they can change depending on my mood and the weather.

emily

My daughter striding out in the muddy fields last Saturday, complete with baby on her back! Oh to be young again….(she did get wet feet though) 

Going back to the alcohol thing, when I did drink that half glass of red wine on Saturday 4th November, it was Ciu Ciu Gotico (if you’re interested) which, usually I adore…I didn’t really enjoy it on this occasion so the other 5 bottles that I brought back from Italy will probably sit on the rack for some time to come. I have found a couple of reasonable alcohol free or de-alcoholised wines and I’m going to stick to them for a while. Although a gin and tonic does sound rather tempting at around 6pm in front of the wood burning stove while I contemplate my next day’s writing challenge.

Watch this space for some Christmas poetry come December or I might record them on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com

 

 

Note Number 38…We’re on the Road Again…

We’ve been travelling for a few days. Up at 5a.m last Monday morning to catch the Poole to Cherbourg ferry at 08.30 with the dog of course. This time we had the bike on the back of the car too.

bikeoncar

Waiting to go on the Ferry with the BIKE sitting high above the car…hmm

Destination…Montevidone (eventually, it’s close to Petritoli where we used to live) but we’re taking our time. First night stop was Amboise, we’ve stayed here before but it took us a little longer to get here this time. No worries, dog walked, fed and emptied and we were off out to dinner to Hippeau (our third visit, we are creatures of habit). I had a delicious glass of champagne and 1/2 carafe of gorgeous rosé wine. The food was excellent too…tin of sardines, followed by tender pork loin and then, dessert…Pain perdu… toast, caramel sauce and vanilla ice-cream, scrumilicious. I remember my mother used to make us toast with strawberry jam and ice-cream, we called it Thunder and Lightening. 

Champagne, Rosé wine, sardines in a tin, pudding! 

 

loire

Early morning walk along the Loire…

Next day we travelled down to Bussoleno, a favourite stop-off because we really like the B&B which is actually an apartment, we also love the local restaurant, Osteria La Credenza, where we’ve eaten twice before. This time they were only serving pizza whereas we normally take advantage of the full Italian osteria type meal, antipasti, primo, secondo and dolci. Couldn’t complain about the pizza though.

Great Shot (not) of Half-eaten Pizzas! (I am not a food critic or photographer)

The only problem with Bussoleno is that for a small town it has many barking dogs. Every other house has at least one dog, sometimes four! They are mostly shut behind iron gates which they charge at, barking and snarling like cartoon guard dogs. Unfortunately for Jpeg and I, this time two of four black things actually escaped! One over the wall and one through the gate which had not quite closed behind a visitor.  I screamed, ‘Get away, get away,’ in an overdramatic manner and waved my arms from side to side like a demented chicken flapping her wings. Jpeg barked a bit which made it worse, but we legged it up the road to safety.  I decided not to take the same road back but took an alternative route,  when, lo and behold (I’m writing Christmas poems at the moment hence the language) ANOTHER gate was open and a ferocious husky kind of dog came charging at us. Fortunately the owners were standing there and after a bit of a tussle managed to control the animal and get it back behind bars! Needless to say, we were barked at all the way round and I have to congratulate Jpeg on only responding a couple of times, (I think they were mostly bigger and fiercer than her). I was too worried to stop and take any photos, so here’s something I prepared later.

Next stop was Ravenna…arrived here in good time for an afternoon nap and cup of tea before supper. We weren’t going to have time to ‘do the mosaics’ which was a shame because Ravenna itself didn’t grab us. The apartment that we stayed in was spacious and clean but there it ended. The Internet didn’t work, there were limited utensils and it had those horrible soap dispensers in the bathroom. The location was pretty awful, very busy road junction but at least there was a park – if you could call it that, more of a bit of wasteland, where I could take the dog.

We walked into town over some lovely cobbled streets and admired the churches and old buildings and headed for the restaurant, Passatelli, which was advertised on the back of our map. The food was excellent which was just as well because I had asked if we could sit at a particular table, outside and close to the street. It was set up so that neither of us would have our backs to the rest the other restaurant guests. I hate that when one person can see everything and everyone, and the other person can only see their dining partner…if you get what I mean. Anyway, he said no, because it was a table for four. I thought he could split it quite easily, but no, we had to sit at the back. However…when a couple of American ladies came in, the staff split the table and made up two separate ones.  I was a bit upset to say the least but then, when I asked them,  they moved us to where we had wanted to sit and behaved as though nothing had happened. Ah well.

A beautiful Square in Ravenna and some great graffiti by the railway track

Ravenna done, I dropped The Man in Rimini so that he could cycle from Rimini to Pisa and I then took myself and the dog, back up the A14 motorway, across to Florence to a delightful holiday apartment in a complex with pool…Vacanza Orchidea in Ghivizzano, close to Bagni di Lucca.  It took the dog and I hours to get here because of a massive hold up on the A14 after an accident. We were in slow-moving and stationary traffic for over one and a half hours. But we did get here eventually and we’re now enjoying a few days R&R with a little walking and writing thrown in. The apartment is lovely, and the swimming pool a treat and the owners of the complex delightful. A good choice.

After a quick check that all was okay, Jpeg fell into a deep sleep. No more car for a few days. 

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Views taken during my morning dog walk in Tuscany 

If anyone is interested The Man is now on his second day of cycling and it’s a hard one, Bagno di Romagna to Florence (62 miles – 6000ft ascent). Tomorrow, the last day is Florence to Pisa (65 miles – 2000ft ascent) so an easier finish…so I believe, but who am I to say? I think it’s marvelous that he does so much…it keeps him out of my hair anyway! Good luck and well done GB!

Note Number 37…Things My Mother Said or Did…

Mother 1982

My mother in 1982

I have just finished reading Sue Perkins memoirs Spectacles – brilliant. Thinking about writing my own story, I have enough notes to fill at least one volume. Anyway, thinking about it – led me on to this blog post in which I’ve included a  few random snippets of advice and things that my mother said or did that have stayed with me. I know I quoted her on FaceBook recently with the classic, ‘If you don’t blow your own trumpet no-one else will.’

Read on…

Me: (after a terrible argument with a friend) She said I was hateful and that she hoped I would DIE… (dramatic delivery)
Her: We’re all going to die dear, it’s just a question of when.

Her: (at ten-thirty in the evening when your boyfriend is still sitting with you in the front room) – This department is now closing down.

Me: Mother, why have you got a half-pint glass of Dry Martini?
Her: Well, I’m going to drink this amount anyway, it just saves going back to fill the glass up too many times.

Me: What’s for pudding?
Her: If we had some cream we could have strawberries and cream if we had some strawberries. (I asked her about this quote and she said it came from an advert for cream – but I can’t find it anywhere)

Her: When you move house – at the very first opportunity you should make up the bed. Because at the end of the day, you’ll be exhausted and the last thing you’ll want to do is hunt for sheets and blankets and make your bed. You’ll just want to get in it!
(This was one of her better pieces of advice and I’ve always stuck to it on my many moves.)

Me: What should I buy X&X for a wedding present, there’s no list?
Her: Glasses or towels. You can never have too many glasses or towels.

Her: You’ll eat a pound of dirt before you die.
(The Man has told me this is not correct; it should be a peck of dirt. But these are my mum’s quotes so I’m not going to change it!)

Me: Mum, what’s VD? (I think I was about 14 at the time)
Her: It’s something you get when you have sex with a person you’re not married to.

Her: The car’s not running very well, it always knows when someone else has been driving it. (She always said this after I had borrowed the car. It was so annoying) 

Her: Don’t pass on the stairs or you’ll have ginger twins… I did have a son with ginger hair and then later I had twins, so maybe there’s something in that one!

My mother always gave me the impression that my brother could do no wrong. She would praise him constantly and say how wonderful he was, ‘Tony’s sent me lovely flowers for my birthday, can you take a photograph of me with them please?’ Never mind that I had driven 90 miles to give her a present. ‘Tony’s taking me to Australia. Tony’s doing this, Tony’s doing that bla bla bla….etc., etc. Anyway, I mentioned this to my brother not that long ago and he said that whenever she was with him she went on and on about how wonderful my sister and I were…I still think he was her favourite though.

My mother loved playing Scrabble and watching the TV as long as it was BBC2. She would not watch any other channel…there may have been some exceptions but I don’t know what they were. She sang with a local group and enjoyed amateur dramatics in Weston Super Mare.  She once had a part where she had to walk on with a basket of pears that she’d picked from the garden but unfortunately the props person had not left the pears where they should have been so she had to go on without them. My mother’s ad-lib was hilarious.  It went something like this:

‘If I had some pears, I would offer you some pears, but I don’t have any pears. Perhaps I should go out into the garden and see if I can find some pears?’ If my memory is correct she went on and off a couple of times repeating more or less the same lines. I think the pears must have been important to the plot! We never let her live it down, with cries for years afterwards of, ‘have you found those pears yet?…Any pears anywhere mother?…where’s that basket with the pears in mum?’ We drove her mad.

 

pears copy

 

I find myself saying some of the things my mother said to my children and grandchildren, ‘don’t put new shoes on the table; it’ll all come out in the wash; handsome is as handsome does.’ She also used to throw salt over her shoulder when she spilt it and so do I. The trouble is I can’t remember which hand you’re supposed to use and over which shoulder you should chuck it and why you should do it… anyone out there know?

Note Number 36…At the English Country Fair…

FordeAbbey

Forde Abbey with the Stalls Set Out in Front of the Beautiful House

Because of my involvement with Forde Abbey Carriage Driving Group I was this year helping with the Forde Abbey Fair. Our group which, is affiliated to the Riding for the Disabled Association, were in charge of the refreshments (tea, coffee and cakes) and all profits from this would be shared between us, and the Chard and District RDA. Both groups use the extensive and well-kept grounds for their sessions. We can drive the ponies and carriages into the arboretum and along the wide paths, around the house and driveways. We are very lucky to have this venue. We also had a stand at the fair, so that visitors were able to understand a little more about the group and how we work. We couldn’t have a pony standing in the carriage all day so we had a wooden head mounted on a table…which worked well. drivingWhen necessary, we are able to take a wheelchair in the carriage.  It was a brilliant day, even though at times the rain came down, but not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of both those taking part and those visiting. I loved it…

I’ve written a poem but have to admit that I have taken a few liberties, I think it’s called poetic licence, (there is no Lady M for a start!). There are more photos at the end of the piece and a fun caption competition should you care to enter. Read on…

The English Country Fair 

‘How lucky we are with the weather,’ said Lady M as the showers cleared away
‘It’s so tiresome for the punters when the rain pours down all day.’

There’s something unique and nostalgic, at an English Fair in July
Displays in the main ring, are thrilling. Look – there goes the falcon so high

You can groom the Shetland pony, take a photo with him and your mum
There’s plenty to see and do while you’re there and it’s all such jolly good fun!

Visit the stalls of craft and art, check out the Tombola with prizes
Eat hot dogs, burgers, chips and a coke – have your fortune told for surprises

Look out for the people giving advice, re, funerals, insurance and glazing
You can purchase a hen, a duck or a goat…the assortment is truly amazing

In the hall of the grand country house refreshments are served from eleven
The fruit cakes, ginger and cup-cakes, must have landed here straight from heaven

Cappuccino? I’m sorry that’s not on our list. Only Decaf or normal you see…
If served in a take-away cup – sir – you could shake it yourself maybe?

The dog show is away in the corner. Poodles, Pekingese, Pointers and Pugs
Dachshunds, Dalmatians and Dobermann. Many handsome, or ugly, mugs

‘Can I have the prettiest bitch now?’ shouts a steward from inside the ring
The owners drag in their faithful friends, who are mostly, looking quite grim

One’s never too sure who enjoys it, the handlers, the judge or the pooch
I saw a disreputable entrant trying bribery with bottles of hooch!

They like to pretend all their doggies, are obedient and frightfully good
But, warnings, lectures and tick-offs, were widespread from where I stood.

Bertie, stop licking that big dog’s behind…Razo! Where did you find that bone?
Matilda! No scrapping. Naughty bad girl…Stalker! Leave that poor Schnauzer alone…

Pedro? What’s that thing in your mouth? Oh no! What on earth shall I do?
Drop it now, put it down…leave it alone…It’s Lady M’s dahling Shih Tzu!

If you want to hear me reading this poem, hop over here to my other blog

rescuedog

Wilson – winning Rescue Dog

best dog

Dear little Chappie…

a real winner

Judge’s Favourite (the owner doesn’t look happy but she was)

Fun Caption Competition Below…please enter your caption in the comments section – Winner gets a £5 WHS voucher.

pug.jpg

(This little pug had just got his harness in a mess…no cruelty was involved!)