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 68…Barcelona (or Barca as The Man calls it!)

The poor dog has been in and out of the kennels over the last few weeks because The Man and I have been busy, busy busy. He went off cycling in the Pyrenees (I think I told you that) and I went to meet him in Barcelona. I should, of course, have posted about this before now but, life got in the way, as it does.

Barcelona. . . I loved it and cannot wait to go back. Apart from all the beautiful architecture — Gaudi — and the fantastic food — tapas. I loved our hotel which had a roof terrace with a swimming pool — well more of a plunge pool really, but it was fandabulous!

Hotel Roof Terrace and View of Cathedral

We visited Gaudi’s house, and it was much smaller than I’d imagined and internally quite understated, which is surprising considering the decorative nature of most of his work. The furniture was ergonomic and modern. What a man! The gardens were beautiful but swarming with tourists — Yes, I know we were tourists too! We took a taxi to the house, which was just as well because it was all uphill and several kilometres. But, we walked back to the Sagrada Famiglia.

Click on Picture to see Caption

It was a hot, long walk and I needed a drink and something to eat. I ordered a Sangria as I thought I should try one but, I didn’t specify the size. Big mistake.

I assumed it would be a wine glass full. How wrong I was. I did my best but gave some away to the chap on the next table and left a quarter in the bottom. It cost 18euro as well!

Sangria

SANGRIA…ahh

I previously booked tickets, for the Sagrada Famiglia, which was a good idea — the place was packed with tourists, but that didn’t detract from the splendour of the building. I have visited many churches and cathedrals, and often it’s pretty much, same old, same old, but the Sagrada was a new experience. The light entering the nave through the stained glass windows was breathtaking. The shape of the roof, the sheer individuality of the architecture — unbelievable.

On one day, we took the tourist bus — what a good idea. Sitting on the top of a bus, with our earphones plugged in, able to relax and take in all the sights. By far the best way to see a city. Past La Pedrera Apartment block. World-famous, need I say more, except that apparently, it’s impossible to have bookshelves in them because of the ‘wobbly’ walls.

la pedera

La Pedrera (from the bus) 

The bus tour took a couple of hours and went out of the city to the Olympic Village from 1992. Around the Port and through the main city areas. I didn’t take many photos because I was too busy looking.

Bus Trip Views (I’ll try harder next time) 

We visited the Boqueria Market, which was impressive by size, the vast amount and the diversity of food, but we weren’t impressed with the restaurants and bars there. However, we discovered the Santa Caterina market quite close to the Cathedral. It wasn’t as big as Boqueria but on the side of it was a great tapas bar, Cuines. Can’t wait to go back!

Market Food 

More Market Food

Cuines at Santa Caterina Market 

We did visit the famous old Els Qatre Gats where Picasso, Gaudi, Hemmingway and probably many other artists, writers and musicians took their refreshment in their day. It is easy to imagine them all meeting and discussing various art fomrs, from the décor and arty atmosphere of the place. But the food? The service? Not impressed. Expensive and the meat was tough. The piano player was little better than Less Dawson and he wasn’t trying to be funny! We won’t go there again but we can tick the box.

Els Quatro Gats…sadly no photo of the piano player. 

Our favourite eating place was Alcoba Azul – we went twice. (I knew it was going to be good because my daugher recommended it and honestly she it very particular about restaurants. Thanks Emily.) A fantastic, crowded, buzzy atmosphere with locals and tourists together. Excellent service even though the place was busy. The tapas food delicious — we couldn’t decide what to eat so ordered far too much. The waitress from Italy couldn’t do enough for us…Sara. You could also eat out in the small square. It’s a tucked away place, not easy to find but worth it.

Alcoba Azul and Sara (We’ll be Back)

Next blog post — RNA Conference… watch this space.

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 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 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!) 

Note Number 35…The Bunny Birthday Cake…

cakeathome

The Bunny Cake in Dorset before Transportation and a Few Final Additions..

The Bunny Birthday Cake

I said I’d make the birthday cake, how foolhardy am I?
‘A number one or a bunny?’ I had to give it a try.
I chose the bunny and forged ahead, feeling quite inspired…
Number one, would’ve been, a piece of cake…’scuse the pun, I’m tired.

Four sponges I made altogether, two chocolate, and two quite plain
The sizes seemed to be slightly off, though the baking tins were the same
I cut them down and shaped them, being careful as I went
And fixed them together with icing and jam, hoping that would act as cement

It sat in the fridge ‘til morning, when the next phase could begin
I needed a layer of icing, should it be think or should it be thin?
The shop bought fondant was perfect, it was quite therapeutic to play
Rolling and shaping, cutting and making – the highlight of my day

I wanted to make some carrots for the dear little bunny to nibble
But no orange colouring could be found…not even a tiny dribble
I mixed the pink and yellow, but that was awfully pale
Perhaps this bunny could be eating a healthy piece of kale

The bunny’s hind feet didn’t look right – fat and rather heavy
They could belong to a monster, or a mini sized, white-haired yeti…
An attempt to shape the lop ears, was an impossible task I found
Except for his tail, I should have put, the whole bunny, right under the ground!

In the end the cake was presentable, you could say a bit of a winner
The one-year old really loved it – and the four-year-old ate it for dinner
From the front he looked delightful, with two orange carrots to boot
From behind, he was giving two fingers up…so perhaps not quite so cute!

Ninette Hartley July 2017 ©

In the Making 

 

They did love it honestly

They did love it honestly… 🙂 (Note the orange carrots) 

from behind2

The Bunny Didn’t Care Either Way!  ha ha ha