Note Number 12, Out With The Old – On With The New…

It was a great family Christmas…now it’s over and I’m missing them all already. It’s been fun, frustrating, full-on, flippant, fancy, fulfilling, fabulous, farty (well all those sprouts and stuffing don’t you know?), feel-good, fortified, fantastic…f*** that’s enough Fs for now!

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A Game of Qwirkle in Progress

Haven’t made any resolutions but we did have a fab time with our neighbours and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law on New Year’s Eve.  We ate chilli followed by bread and butter pudding, then we played Qwirkle – a game I can highly recommend for most age groups. Try it if you haven’t already. Some of us drank a good dose of vino… Fun was had. At 11.45pm we went outside where The Man had previously lit the fire-pit so by then it was roaring beautifully.  To see out the ‘old year’, each of us secretly chose one or more emotions/habits, that we would like to ‘get rid of’ before 2017 came in.   We wrote them on scraps of paper and then threw them into the fire. It was something that we had done at my son’s wedding in Thailand two years ago and it seemed a good opportunity to repeat the experience.  It felt good, ‘letting go’.

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Fire-Pit Burning Well – goodbye 2016 hello 2017

Good luck with 2017 all of you and we hope to see as much of our family and as many friends as possible during the year – The Man will insist on a maximum of three nights only if you have to stay. I’m sure he’ll make some comment below as to why that is.

Note Number 10…London Visit…

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Trafalgar Square in the Misty Afternoon (sounds like a title for a story)

We’ve just got back from a quick visit to the big city, London. It was surprisingly quiet for the time of year. I actually hate crowded pavements when it’s difficult not to bump into another body, especially when they have their headphones on and their eyes glued to their smartphones…there were a few of those. We were also not squashed like sardines on the tube, but it was busy enough. I find as I get older I get paranoid about being on the underground, particularly when the train grinds to a halt between stations, I immediately think something awful is going to happen.  But, I was saved any of these anxieties so a pleasant few days were had.

We strolled around St James’s. Walked to the West End, had a meal at Joe Allen’s, took in a show, the Carol King musical, Beautiful. Which was amazing and a nostalgic journey for me back to the 60s.  In general we had a wonderful time and the icing on the cake was the arrival of my daughter and family on Sunday. We had a meal at the Windmill, Clapham Common, a busy pub with excellent food and situated right beside the common and a convenient playground.  The build up to Christmas has begun and even The Man enjoyed himself, no doubt because of the absence of any ‘Christmas Music’ a part of the season he just cannot abide.  I’m inclined to agree with him but, I do like to hear a few popular carols and songs around the 24th/25th December.  It’s when it all begins in September that bugs me.

I’ll leave you with a few photos.

I was excited to see some young ballerinas entering the Royal Ballet School, which is opposite the stage door to the Royal Opera House.  The Bridge across the road joins the two together so that dancers can get from one building to the other without going outside. I imagined they were taking part in the Saturday Matinee of The Nutcracker.  What lucky young dancers.

Various shots of Covent Garden….

Left: A photo for my bro’. Centre: St James’s Palace.  Right: The Lamb and Flag, one of London’s oldest pubs famous for the battering almost to death, (but not quite) of  playright, critic and poet, John Dryden in the alleyway outside.  Also visited by many other famouse authors, poets and artists including Dickens. 

The lights on Regents Street and New Bond Street – The Man thought the one on the right was a fish bone. I told him it was a peacock feather, but I could see where he was coming from. 

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Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

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Canadian flag for our Canadian friends worldwide…

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And Finally, Walking to the pub on Clapham Common on Sunday Ahh….

Note Number 9…Thoughts on Christmas…

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Wreath Bought Today…money went to charity. Next year I’m going to make my own but still give some money to charity.

I’ve had good times I’ve had bad times…most of my friends, present and past, have had lives that follow a similar pattern.  But as you get older it becomes more evident that we humans are greedy things. We want our cake and eat it. We want too much in the way of material things and are never happy to be content to just have what we need. It’s nearing Christmas so I suppose that’s what’s making me feel this way. The constant flow of Christmas email offers coming into my inbox is frightening. The advertising in magazines, newspapers and on the television is bombastic. The pressure is on!   There are so many people in the world with absolutely nothing. No home, no family, no food, nothing – and no prospect of things getting any better for them. It makes me angry and sad…  and I know I’m a hypocrite, because I’m not going to give up everything I have and hand it all over to the needy.

In the past I have been without, literally, I have had nothing in my handbag or pocket and searched down the sides of the sofa (at least I had a sofa) for a few coins so that I could collect enough of them together for a meal.  I’ve also had times when the table has been overflowing with food and the cupboards are bursting.   I have worried about only having 50p in my purse and I have worried about having only £50 in my purse. It’s all relative. I have had my fair share of tragedy, losing my dad when I was only thirteen and then losing my lovely son when he was only twenty-seven. But, those events apart, I have been lucky in so many ways.  I am lucky right now…the weather has been pretty rubbish but who cares?  I am free, I’m not hungry and I’m comfortable. Most days I can please myself what I do. I have grown older and wiser.  I’m a bit overweight and should try to lose it – but why? I’m healthy and happy and until I can’t actually get my clothes done up, I’m going to try not to worry about a few pounds of excess body fat.

I could never be as good as those people, who give up their Christmas Day to feed the homeless and needy before they have anything for themselves. But, I fully intend this year to try to do something helpful each day of the holiday. On Facebook I saw an advent calendar and each day it had a good deed to do, which I think is a great idea – much better than eating chocolate!  Doing something kind or helpful does not mean that you have to deprive yourself of anything, it doesn’t even have to cost any money.  Just make sure your neighbour has everything they need…whatever their age. Visit the local home for senior people…(trying to be PC) and maybe take a bottle of sherry for them to have a glass on Christmas day.  I’m sure we can all think of something charitable to do? So far in December I haven’t done enough good deeds but I am trying, honestly.

I bought a wreath for the door today, it cost £10 and the money will go to charity. I’m not going to buy a load of Christmas decorations because it is a waste of money and we won’t be here for Christmas day but with family in Bristol (can’t wait).  How lucky am I to be sharing time with my children and grandchildren and of course The Man…he’s a bit of a bah-humbug.  I’m honestly not a Christmas grump but, I’m going try hard not to be too indulgent this year.

I’m not a religious person but appreciate the part of Christmas that brings people and families together. I do not appreciate the commercial side of Christmas at all and hope that you, readers, will take time out to think of those less fortunate than yourselves at this time of year and I will do the same.

 

 

Note Number 2…Where Did You Get That Hat…?

 

Last night, Saturday 10th September, I attended the Vittles and Verse poetry evening in Lyme Regis. I did read a couple of my own poems and they were well received (I think!) The event is held every month and I’m going to miss a couple while The Man and I travel back to Italia for an autumn visit but I’ll be returning again for another session as soon as I get the chance. There are some amazing poets in Dorset.  I’m talking about the others Not Me!

Being in the poetry mood – I thought I would write Note Number 2 in the theme of rhyming couplets…Well – the Panto Season will soon be upon us!

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Charity Shop Window – Most of the shop windows in Bridport featured hats on the day.

Bridport Hat Festival Saturday 3rd September 2016

In Bridport one fine Saturday
The residents, their hats display

Of many colours, styles and shapes
It’s lots of fun and jolly japes

Roger Snook from the hat shop in town
Gave a knowledgeable talk at the Rose and Crown
(actually it was The Bull Hotel but that doesn’t rhyme)

He told us stuff about hundreds of hats
So much, that I’ve forgotten the facts

I’ll share some interesting bits with you
If my memory is able to drag up a few
(see further down post)

The Man and I were unprepared for the day
So improvised quickly – let us just say…

I favoured a fascinator with feathers so chic
He bought a luminous chicken – minus the beak

Music and dancing buzzed in the street
The atmosphere was festive ‘twas all such a treat

In Bucky Doo Square as the clock struck one
A group photo is taken – it’s jolly good fun (not)

The rain held off ‘til about half past two
So events ran smoothly – as they usually do

Next year the festival will be with us again
And I’m already designing the hat I’ll wear then!

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The Man as a Chicken…me in my Fascinator only Mr Snook said thay were orginally known as a ‘TANTALISER’ which I think sounds far more interesting.

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Mr Roger Snook with his array of hats…..

Snooks hat shop has been in business in Bridport since 1896 and although the town is known for Rope Making the hat making industry was also significant in the town because they used the flax for weaving them.  Mr Snook wanted to point out however, that the family are not hat makers but hat retailers.  He can pretty well get you any hat that you want, at a price though!
Roger Snook’s other job, apart from running the family shop, is to look after the town clock which he asures us chimes 13 times at midnight every New Year’s Eve. I’ll have to pop along this year and make sure he’s not telling porky pies. The shop holds a large selection Fedoras which I do believe The Man is going to check out as he rather fancied this blue one. Although he might choose the Al Capone style with the rolled edge Hmmm.

Al Capone on the left…blue Fedora on the right

The Panama hat originated from Equador and we were given a demonstation as to how to correctly fold one.  They are rolled up and kept in a tube but should be ‘let out’ at least once a year.  They must ocassionally be hung up in the bathroom whilst a shower is being taken so the steam will help to keep flexibility – don’t let it drop in the bath, this was not recommended.  I’m not sure I have a picture of a Panama hat…what a shame but I think this rather large pink and white ladies hat is an example… (not traditional I know)

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A Few Facts from Mr Snook…

A Deerstalker is also known as a Fore and Aft. (I think this is also the name for an army/navy hat that can be worn either side to side – athwartor fore and aft).
The Fez was banned by the Turkish Government in 1925 as part of modernisation reforms.
The Hat Pin was invented in Gloucester, England.
There are 4 pints in a Ten Gallon Hat…and the name is derived from Route 66 in America because it takes 10 gallons of petrol to get from one petrol station to another on Route 66. (I’m still not sure why they would name the hat after this unless everyone driving  on Routee 66 wore one)
In 1896 Mr Bowler, Lord Cobham’s game keeper invented which hat? You guessed it…the Bowler Hat. Originally from cow hide stretched over a post but devloped from that point.
In 1910 it was the most popluar hat in Bolivia. Sold to the people as a hat which would increase fertility if they wore it.
A Pith Helmet is called thus because it was/is made from reeds. They were orginally white and were dyed using tea to camouflage them in the desert during the Zulu wars.
Poirot is the only person who wears a white bowler hat (is this true? I may have got that wrong).

Lots of pictures of hats now….

 

 

 

And finally….

 

The Walking Singers…

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The Walking Singers – John, Paolo, Anna-maria, Cristina, Me, Monia, Tiziana and Bernadetta.  (I may have spelt some of the names wrong, please fogive me.) Eugenio and Barbara are missing from this photo but we musn’t leave them out!

‘Would you like to join our Christmas singing group?’ asked my Canadian/Italian friend Tiziana back in November. ‘This will be our third year and it’s just good fun, mostly the group are Italians and we sing Christmas songs.’

I love singing, I take after my mother, she always had a song suitable for every occasion. My friend Linda is also the same…at any time she’ll burst into song after you have said something like… ‘good morning’…she’ll start,

Good morning, good morning
We’ve talked the whole night through
Good morning good morning to you… etc., Gene Kelly version I think.

I don’t want to turn into my mother, or Linda in fact but it is great to sing. It makes you feel good, something to do with endorphins I expect…I do sing, intermittently throughout everyday and if I don’t, then The Man thinks there’s something wrong with me.

Back to the Christmas choir then. I accepted the invitation and joined the choir with seasonal glee…(*groan*)

There were about four rehearsals usually a 9pm start but as most of the group were Italian they actually began somewhere between 9.30pm and 10pm. They were/are a lovely bunch of people but for the first three sessions, there was only a core of about four people who remained the same! Numbers kept changing and I had to try and remember so many different names.

Our song list contained most of the popular songs, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, (for which we donned red noses of course), Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Jingle Bell Rock and several more. Imagine was the favourite with the Italian audiences…we had to sing it twice when we performed at the old people’s home in Petritoli. Fairytale of New York proved to be a hard one to come to grips with but we managed it in the end – I love that song – we couldn’t have managed it without John Healy on guitar…or could we? hmm. Happy Christmas (War is Over) was equally popular and quite emotional to sing. It seems every year it is topical, sadly.

The name of the group is, The Walking Singers, it came about not because they walk at the same time as singing but because the first year they performed they sang in a piazza in Fermo then walked a bit and sang in a different piazza, then another little stroll and a little sing, and so it went on. This year, we did actually sing and walk at the same time and as we strolled through the streets, shop doors opened, people wished us well, smiled and looked happy. We were spreading goodwill in abundance and it felt good.

So, 2015 saw three performances one at the Casa di Riposo (old people’s home) in Petritoli; one outside Bar Primavera in Fermo (we were given vino brule, which is mulled wine, it certainly helped oil the vocal tubes. The final singing event was on Christmas Eve and took place under the Christmas tree in the big Piazza del Popolo in Fermo town. The atmosphere was…well…Christmassy…with a skating rink set up in the middle of the square, lots of twinkly lights, stalls selling Christmas tack bric-a-brac, children playing, bells ringing…all very nostalgic and magical until we started singing…J Only joking. The crowds gathered to listen, we sang our hearts out and even The Man joined in. His contribution was to play the tambourine with skill and passion especially in We Wish you A Merry Christmas…we never did get any figgy pudding though!

 

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Olivespastavino, complete with red nose. Not that I needed one really as the actual nose was pretty scarlet at the time! (I’m looking very keen)

Happy New Year! Good wishes for 2016 to all.

Father Christmas has moved in next door…

I know where Father Christmas is living and its NOT Lappland…

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I saw through the window, on the street outside, a workmen setting up some electricity in the house next door. (He was taking it from the street light…hmmm) It’s a tiny house which has been empty for several years. I’ve been inside only once. The ground floor is one small room with a traditional Marche fireplace. It’s a perfect grotto for Father Christmas and that’s exactly what has happened.

Babbo Natale has ‘moved in’ for the duration of the Christmas period so that the children of Petritoli can come and visit him – (only during opening hours which seem to be a bit limited!)

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I am living next door to FC – how wonderful! What a pity my granddaughter isn’t here to see him, she’s thousands of miles away in New York. Still, I expect Santa will be delivering there too, but he won’t be living next door!

I was so excited I just had to tweet about it and imagine my surprise when Father Christmas himself replied to my tweet! See below…

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Happy Holidays Father Christmas…See you around in Petritoli…

Fabulous Food From Near and Far….

The Bowling Alley ready for action. Photo courtesy Francesa Amurri

The Bowling Alley ready for action. Photo courtesy Francesa Amurri

26th July 2014 was the date for the annual International Supper in Petritoli when all the stranieri (foreigners) living in the town, make a dish from their own country and bring it for others to share. There are over twenty different nationalities her in Petritoli which has a little over 2500 residents. (Correct me if I’m wrong please).
This year chose to make Coronation Chicken, but first I had to Google the recipe as I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. I discovered that the dish was invented by Constance Spry and that It was a long and quite complicated recipe starting with braising the chicken in a well seasoned and herb/spice filled stock, allowing to cool, removing the flesh then covering it in a sauce made from curry spices, apricot and cream…no hint of mayonnaise, raisons or almonds! Well, blow that for a laugh. I decided just to buy a cooked chicken and use mayonnaise with curry powder and my homemade apricot chutney. The result was delicious and the dish was gobbled up in no time at all. (I did feel a bit of a cheat though).

Coronation Chicken (my version)

Coronation Chicken (my version)

We had some Swedish guests staying, Stina and Thomas, and I invited them to join us and to make a contribution to the supper. Of course, they made meatballs and brought herrings in a mustard sauce and soused herrings together with redcurrant sauce. They also brought a packet of Swedish biscuits that were a bit like Rivita but very much tastier and not at all like cardboard. I marvelled at how they managed to prepare everything and then they let me in on their secret, ‘We went to Ikea,’ said Stina conspiratorially and laughed. Who could blame her, why go to too much trouble when you’re on your hols?

Usually the event is held in the open air in the BorgoTrento a pleasant level road leading to the park, but this year the weather was a bit suspect to so we transferred to the local bowling alley. That is a large covered building where people play bowls, as opposed an American bowling alley. To be honest I’m not sure exactly what kind of bowls they play there.

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John Healy – photo courtesy Francesa Murri

The rain did come down, thunder roared and the lightening flashed. What a good job we were all inside. They had hired the services of one John Healy to sing for us. He did a sterling job giving us renditions of some great songs including a couple of Irish ballads. The problem for the poor guy was that every time he got into the swing of his act a bouncy Italian woman who was the compèrie for the evening, interrupted him to make some announcement or other…I think he began to despair and wonder why on earth they had hired him!

The evening ended with the compulsory raffle but this year, thank goodness, only three hampers up for grabs. Last year there were about 50 prizes and the raffle went on for an hour and a half!

The Man had a very hard task, I felt so sorry for him. He was asked to sit on the judging panel and rate the desserts. I don’t know how he managed it, twelve samples of delicious puddings from different countries. He wasn’t too impressed with the jelly, but his vote went to the baklava from Albania. I THINK that might have been the overall winner but these things are always so confusing at an Italian event!

Dessert Judging

Dessert Judging