Note Number 70…It was PARTYTIME…

I know, I know, third blog post in just over a week, I told you last time, it’s like the buses. But, I have to post about my brother’s (Tony Hatch) fabulous 80th birthday party, before it’s old news. We had a ball on the Erasmus, a river boat on the Thames. It was amazing!

The boat

Erasmus Coming to Collect us

Even though I was born in Ruislip, lived there for over sixteen years and went to London frequently, I have NEVER taken a cruise up the river. It was fantastic. We left St Katherine’s Pier at 7pm and went first up river towards Chiswick. What a great view of the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and MI5 (my sister assured me it was, because it was green, but what do I know?). We turned somewhere, not sure where but it was beyond Battersea and then proceeded down river. Past the London Eye, the 02, Docklands, and out through The Thames Barrier. I was mightily impressed with the whole trip and would do it again next weekend if I could. Only minor problem was that they dropped us back at a different pier…had to find our way back to Tower Bridge and the car. It was okay, except for a load of drunk people from another boat…or were they from ours? Only joking!

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We were treated to a three course dinner; prawn, smoked salmon and a fish mousse starter; tender lamb cutlets, spinach and some delicious potato concotion; summer pudding and cream. All served with lashings of red or white wine. I stuck to water, which was just as well because at the end of the evening, after my brother had negleted to blow out the candles quickly enough, and virtually set fire to the cake, he asked me to get up and sing that old song, Push A Little Button  recorded in 1966 (a flop) and then a minor hit in 2010 when the BBC used it for their TV Licencing advert. Yes folks that was me!

Among the other artists who performed were Claire Sweeny, Cassidy Jenson, Richard Kerr (he sang the wonderful song Mandy which he wrote), Jae Alexander, Michael Dore, Roger Greenaway. Hope I haven’t missed anyone.  I did see Tony Blackburn and Des O’Connor on board too.

Tony sang Downtown, Messing About on the River and several more of his wonderful hit songs. I am always amazed at how many he’s written. Of course the best thing was seeing my nieces, nephews and their siblings and other members of the extended family. Some from New Zealand. It was great to mix with the celebs for an evening but I don’t think I could keep up with the lifestyle for too long. Nice to dip my toe in though.

Some of the family …My apoligies to all those members of the family whose photograph I didn’t get…there are so many of us! Isn’t it always the way, you get home and think, ‘how come I didn’t take more photos?’

Thank you Tony and Maggie, for organising such a tremendous event. I for one, really appreciated your generosity. You are great party hosts.

I leave you all with this!

Note Number 64. . .I’ve Done It. . .

Lopesan Villa Del Conde – Day and Night

A long time since I wrote any blog but I haven’t been idle. Apart from a holiday between Christmas and New Year in Cornwall at St Michael’s Hotel Falmouth where the food and facilities were great but the staff and running  of the place left a little bit to be desired. Wouldn’t put me off going again though, but, I just don’t like being called ‘dear’ by the hotel reception staff. We did a quick trip to Gran Canaria in February to stay at the Lopesan Villa Del Conde. Both places were memorable in their own way, but the sun in Meloneras has to be the winner.

Walking the Coastal Path and Cream Tea at St Michael’s Resort

The Man did plenty of  cycling while  we were in Gran Canaria and I did plenty  of lazing about and sunning myself – I did do some writing, which leads me on to the next bit of news.

the end

I have finished the first draft of my novel! *drum roll* It’s only taken about four years! I am aware, that now the hard work really starts with editing., I do feel a great sense of achievement having been able to write the word, THE END. I’m going to a novel-writing retreat from 9-12 March, a bit late you might think but no,  there are people on there who have already written and published one or more books and I think the weekend will help me to move quickly onto the next phase.

Other news is Brexit? No, I’m not going to talk about that except to say that I’m waiting until after the 29th March before I begin to put the dog through any unnecessary blood tests for a planned holiday in France in September.

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Not Sure Jpeg wants to travel in the car to France…she’s ten years old now  

I’ve been to London to visit the Discover –  Children’s Story Centre and can recommend it to all you people out there with children or grandchildren who have a love of books or even if you’re not book obsessed it’s a wonderful day out with imaginative play  areas inside and out. The day we were there featured a story-time of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr. A lovely story (even if a little dated). We went with a child of two and a half and a five-year old and both were entertained admirably. There was a fabulous area containing several child size ‘sets’ of stories about  Mog the Forgetful Cat, also by Judith Carr. We had trouble dragging the children away from there, so many little rooms to play  in and props to  play with.  The centre also has a cafe and a book/toy shop and plenty of toilets placed on every floor!

tiger

Bridport has not let us down this winter with so many films, plays, comedy nights etc., it’s impossible  to keep up. This week the Electric Palace has hosted a Mike Leigh Film Festival and The Man and I went to see Secrets and Lies. Brilliant film with some superb acting from Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall. Afterwards there was a Q&A session with Mike Leigh and Andrew Dickson (the musical composer). It was wonderful to hear them speak about film making and collaboration between composer and director. The music for Secrets and Lies is so good that you hardly notice it – which is how it should be. A member of the audience asked Mike Leigh how he chose his actors and he said that first and foremost they had  to be character actors and intelligent. He didn’t want anybody with a big ego. I loved watching the film but it made me feel a tad regretful. If I had my time again I would definitely have worked harder at my acting career. Maybe go to drama school, RADA if they’d have me. Oh, how I would absolutely love to be in a Mike Leigh film. *sigh*

Secrets and Lies…try and find it online or on a DVD such a brilliant film.

Can’t believe it’s nearly the end of February and March is looking very busy already. Must fit in more time to write my blog – I’m sure I have tons more to tell you but  hey, the sun is shining and it’s time for a cuppa!

cup of tea

 

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!