Note Number 29…Amsterdam for some but Kenilworth and Manchester for me…

Leaving from Crewkerne…arrival in Amsterdam (photo  credit MoreAdventure )

The Man cycled from London to Amsterdam last week. Leaving Blackheath early on Thursday morning the 4th May and arriving in Amsterdam on the evening of Sunday the 7th May. Well done him. The route was London–Dover-Calais-Bruges-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. He said that whilst the route was pretty flat, the wind was against them and the weather not as good as they had hoped but he’s done it! Next trip is just a short hop on Sunday from Watchet to West Bay. Coast to Coast to raise money for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance – only 78 miles a snip for my man. Good on him I say.

While he was away, I spent a little bit of time in the garden putting in plants, weeding etc., and walking the dog.

Jpegfield

Loving the Meadows at the Moment

milkbottle

The sight of this milk in the delivery crate reminded me of being a young girl. In the winter the birds always used to peck through the metallic cap and enjoy the cream from the top of the milk!

 Friday, I took Jpeg to the kennels and took myself to Kenilworth in Warwickshire. A visit to my lovely ex-mother-in-law who is almost 92. It was great to see her still living independently albeit not as lively as she might have been in her younger days, she’s still got a marvellous sense of humour and makes the most of  things.  I hope, if I live to be in my 90s I will be as game as she is. She is full of memories, as are so many people her age and it’s a pleasure to listen to her reminisce.

Ma-inlaw

Good old Mother-in-Law, always a smile and a story to tell. 

While in Kenilworth I met up with a writing colleague for the first time. Jo Derrick. We had communicated up to this point, only on Facebook, messenger, twitter and email for at least two if not three years. Often, when you eventually meet up, it can be awkward, difficult or just plain wrong but not in this case. We had a fabulous evening and there was hardly a pause in the conversation. We covered a wide variety of topics and discovered who our ‘mutual’ writing friends were. Can’t wait to meet up again. The writing fraternity are a sharing caring lot – on the whole.

Jonme

Fun with Jo Derrick…looking forward to the next meeting…

For the weekend I drove on up to Manchester to visit friends we had made whilst living in Italy. During May, I have now seen almost everyone from our little town in Italy who lives in England! It was a busy time in Manchester. Walking, eating, drinking and talking.

Beautiful Countryside at Styal Mill Grounds – and I loved this vibrant pink Rhododendron.

On Sunday evening we had a barbecue and were joined by a young French friend of mine, who could not relax until the results of the French Election were announced. Thankfully, the election of Macron was a relief – so the whole table cheered and we drank a toast.

FRANCE-BASTILLE-DAY

Macron…Let’s see what happens next…

The conversation inevitably turned to political situation in the UK and I don’t mind telling you that I have no idea what will happen to this country on June 8th. I have never before been so unsure of my vote. I do not know to which party I want to pledge my vote. I’m pretty clear as to who I don’t want to vote for but the choice of the others does not fill me with too much inspiration either. I reckon, we, the public, are constantly fed a load of rubbish by the government and the main opposition and I, like many other people, want hear some solid facts, policies and sense. But it seems that is not the way things are done. I didn’t want to come out of the EU and now that article 50 has been triggered, as I understand it, we can’t stop the inevitable even if the public changed their minds and voted to stay in, should they be given the opportunity. I believe, we would have to re-negotiate joining…what a palaver. Between now and June the 8th I will read as much as I can but how much can you believe? And when will the different political parties stop knocking each other and start telling us what their own party plans are for this country and how they intend to fulfill any promises they might rashly make? That is the question.

Happy Days.

Collected The Man from St Pancras on Monday night having driven down from Manchester and after a brief stay in the big smoke we at last arrived back in Dorset. It’s good to travel but it’s oh so good to come home…

Garden

 

 

home

…and the dog agrees…

Note Number 28…Visitors, Visitors, Visitors…

I’ve put pen to paper again with a poem. I hope you readers all know me well enough to realise that it’s all tongue in cheek and that actually I love being a hostess and that I am a sociable, gregarious person.  We were visited by a few of our good friends, all of whom we first met while we were living in Italy.

Visitors…

We’ve had visitors to stay in April and I had to get things straight
They came and went like fleas on their hols, from morning until late
I had to do the housework proper, not flick around light with the duster
Dig deep into my domestic soul, find some enthusiasm to muster

I splashed the extra strong germ killer, gave the bathroom a jolly good scrub
I added a bit of fragrance so it smelt like a flowering shrub
The sheets were done, the bed was made, the food all bought and stored
The wine and beer safe in the fridge. I hoped they wouldn’t get bored

The first lot came for only one night, we packed much in before they fled
To much better pastures; a hotel, en-suite with a king size bed
A quick turnaround at our end to welcome the next lucky pair
They hung around for two nights… more than enough to bear

On to the final couple…a collection at dawn o’clock!
From the airport seventy miles away – my body’s still in shock
They redeemed themselves, a gift of smoked salmon, certainly Ireland’s best
Then ruined it all, with several demands to complete a tough, tourist quest

Off to see Lenny’s farm shop and Broadchurch’s death-cliff height
The town pub was too smelly, and the Guinness, bejaysus was shite!
They live in Italy, so he wanted to go to a typical, thatched local Inn
I found one, he liked it, but the beer wasn’t good, bloody hell, I just could not win

We’d got rid of the lot and had settled right down, to recoup our lost get-up-and-go
When a knock on the door. No! Another fine pair, wanting glasses of cold Prosecco
They stayed long enough, to scoff all the nuts, the dip, the breadsticks and wine
Then up they both jumped, thank goodness, they had somewhere much better to dine!

Ninette Hartley ©

broadchurch

West Bay…the location for the Broadchurch TV series. Only a ten minute drive from our cottage.

lennyhenry copy

Washingpool Farm Shop…another location for Broadchurch

Walking the dog with our visitors

ilchester arms copy

The Ilchester Arms at Symondsbury…thatched Inn, beer not good aparently…(gin and tonic was great though) 

Note Number 27…We’re Spending the Kid’s Inheritance…

A little poem followed by what we did for Easter Weekend…

We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
And hoping that they won’t mind,
As we fulfil our dreams and ambitions
Keeping our bodies and minds alive
Because, until we reach the end of the road
And hear that inevitable knock on the door
We’re spending the kid’s inheritance,
And, we’re enjoying it, further more

We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
On doing as much as we’re able
Like, city breaks, beach holidays, classy hotels,
Sunshine, roses, champagne and those
Wonderful visits to London to see
The ballet, or theatre, or an art gallery
We’re spending the kid’s inheritance
We’re retired and at last we are free

Don’t worry, we’re not really selfish
And, there’s something I really should add
Most of our kids are now better off
Than their soon to be skint mum and dad!

Ninette Hartley © February 2017

Last Easter weekend we spent in London…a city break. We stayed at the Royal Overseas League in St. James’s where we are members. It’s a wonderful club, where they had a deal; four nights for the price of two. It’s perfectly situated for central London, shopping, theatres, museums etc., We packed in a lot of stuff…

nononobike

The Man Enjoying Window Shopping….(nooooo- not another bike!!) 

1. Friday train from Crewkerne to Waterloo. Lunch at the club. Evening a visit to the Dominion theatre to see An American in Paris. A new show, a stupendous show and well worth a visit. The dancing, mostly balletic, is wonderful, culminating in a fabulous pas de deux with the leading characters, Jerry Mulligan played by Robert Fairchild and Lise Dassin played by Leanne Cope. The Man said it was the best bit of ballet he’d ever watched.

american

2. Saturday we went to the Regent Street Cinema to watch an uncut version of Novecento (1900) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu. An epic five hours and twenty minutes of film plus a forty-five minute, interval. The story covers 1900 – 1945 showing the situation in Italy between the Socialist party and the Fascists, seen through the eyes of two boys, born on the same day, one a peasant, whose family live and work on the estate belonging to the family of the other. I wasn’t sure I could sit through such an epic but actually it was like reading a good story, settling in and not putting the book down until you had finished the whole thing. I loved it.

regent street cinema
3. Sunday we took ourselves off to the Imperial War Museum but only managed to cover three of the five floors in four hours. We’ll definitely be going back. The Holocaust Exhibition was particularly powerful with images, artefacts, interviews with survivors and a lot more. Disturbing, informative and thought provoking.

tulipsstjames

Beautiful Tulips in St James’s Park – We walked to the IWM 

4. Sunday evening we were treated to a musical concert at the club. Not something I would normally choose, a soprano, Sarah-Jane Lewis, and a piano, but I have to say, the singing was beautiful and the pianist, Simon Lepper, accomplished and not bad looking. The songs were short, diverse and Sarah sang in three different languages. We were given the programme with all the words translated so it was easy to follow. A glass of wine after the concert and a chance to thank the artists for their performance, rounded off the evening.

The Steinway….and The Programme

5. Monday, we were to meet a couple of our children for lunch at Dishoom in Carnaby. The Man had bought a couple of pairs of shoes on Saturday morning and I had said in a mad moment, ‘I’ve always wanted a pair of DMs.’ Well, we were early for our appointment so had a walk around and lo and behold there was the original Doc Martin shop in Carnaby Street. Had to be done!

dms

THE BOOTS…photograph credit Will Hartley 

In the evening we went to see The Wipers Times (so called because the British soldiers pronounced Ypres Wipers) a first world war play written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, at The Arts Theatre. A completely opposite venue to the Dominion it was an intimate theatre, more like a club, and the production was low key but splendid. Based on a true story about the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters who found an old printing press in the burned out ruins of Ypres and decided to print a satirical newspaper covering the war. The main men, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson, co-editors continued to produce the journal throughout the war. It was an instant hit with the troops but not so popular with the top brass. Spoof advertisements, agony aunts, musical hall jokes and routines and always taking a jibe at those higher up. If you can catch this play it’s a must.

The Arts Theatre Bar – loved the light fitting… The Programme for The Wipers Arms

Back home to Dorset on Tuesday we felt we had crammed plenty of culture into our weekend away in London and hope it’s not too long before we can cram in another. In the meantime, we’re attending as many of the 22 films showing over the next five days at the Bridport Film Festival, From Page to Screen. We’ve already seen, In the Heat of the Night and Their Finest, both bloody brilliant and only a hop down the road.

I love being Retired…

feelingenergetic

Note Number 26… My Husband is A Cyclist…

cyclist copy

My husband is a cyclist and says he’s not obsessed
He doesn’t have just one bike but a couple, more or less
There’s one for the winter with disc brakes and thick tyres
And another for the summer months when, with the effort he perspires
Then of course there is the spinner that he sets up here at home
When the weather is against him and he can’t go out and roam

He’s found himself some special shoes, three pairs of them he’s got
They each fit to different pedals and of those he has a lot
I don’t understand any of it, it’s way beyond my grasp
I only had a bike for shopping, in the dim and distant past
That had simply three gears for helping on the hills
Nowadays, there’s twenty-three, enhanced with little pills

The weight has dropped off by the stone and he’s looking young and fit
And now the lycra’s not so stretched around the lumpy bit
More padding needed round the back and butt cream, liberally spread
When he reaches home after 100k, he sometimes looks half dead
He really loves all three bikes, but not more than he loves me
It’s the Strava App he’s constantly on, that causes jealousy

He uses it for logging all the rides, with hills, and speeds,
His buddies upload comments on their each and every feed
It’s a bit like Facebook for those on bikes, or swimming or a run
They strive to beat their highest goals and say it’s all in fun
But underneath the jolly remarks there lies a green eyed streak
And woe betide the person who makes fun of the Strava geek

So, my husband is a cyclist, he rides the hills and vales
In the rolling Dorset countryside for miles, and miles of trails
I’m not a clinging wife which is probably just as well
And I’m happy to let him pursue whatever rings his bell
As it keeps him out of trouble and gives me quality time
To write a bit of fiction, or complete another rhyme

Ninette Hartley April 2017©

Note Number 25…A Visit to the Ballet…

Programme ENB

I’m not a ballet critic nor a balletomane to the fullest extent but I do love a good, live ballet performance and it’s something I missed out on a great deal when living and sunning myself in the region of Le Marche Italy. I was a dance teacher in the UK for twenty-five years and during that time, for four years published a dance magazine called The Youngdancer,  a financial disaster but artistically and personally quite an achievement. I think I know a little bit about dance after that experience.

A trip to London last week and I booked tickets for Sadler’s Wells to see The English National Ballet’s triple bill. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Adagio Hammerklavier and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). I knew a little bit about all three ballets but was a bit worried about The Man, who is not a great lover of ballet but does appreciate the ability of the dancers and has grown to like it more, since he’s been hanging about with me. I had told him beforehand, ‘if you don’t like the dancing at least you can close your eyes and appreciate the music.’

In the Middle

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated

Well, the first performance began with a blackout on stage and an almighty electronic crash that made my heart jump out of my chest and my nerves endings tingle with fear and that’s how the accompaniment  continued. I was regretting my comment immediately. I sat through the dance and for me the whole thing was overpowered by the loud discordant noise of the ‘music’. The dancers could not be faulted and the choreography ‘interesting’ though I’m not a fan the beautiful classical motif being abruptly finished, then a casual walk off stage completely out of character as though to grab a coffee and light up a fag. I’m sure that William Forsythe had his reasons but it’s just not for me. Thom Willems, I did try to like your music. So, basically, jury still out on this one for me, but The Man? He loved it, especially the music. Well, you never can tell…

Adagio Hammerklavier

Next was Adagio Hammerklavier, music by Ludwig van Beethoven. This time music I could not fault you, it was medicine to soothe my damaged drums and lull me back into the world of beauty. Choreography was slow and absorbing, though Hans Van Manen (choreographer) still managed to throw in an unessessary flexed foot every now and then. Why must they do that? Costumes, flowing and fitting. Dancers, technically and artistically striking, bodies working together with a unity and completeness that only comes from rehearsal and hard slog. A joy for me to watch.

Last in the triple bill was Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) choreography by Pina Baush and this was the one I was looking forward to. My daughter had been raving about Pina Baush a couple of years ago and I had not had the opportunity to see any of her work so this was a treat.  Before the performance began, a team of stage assistants, (or they might have been dancers) came on in brown coats and spread the whole stage with peat. As I understand, from the programme, the idea of this was to ‘ground’ the dancers, it’s not a pretty classical dance but, it is to be danced as yourself, to give yourself up to the dance and the music.

rite of spring

The music is by Igor Stravinsky. Pina Baush said that the music was the dance and the dancers are the music. Jo Ann Endicott, who was the rehearsal director for this performance and had worked with Baush in 1996, said that if you weren’t exhausted at the end then you hadn’t danced properly. Well, I can assure you, I was exhausted at the end and I didn’t dance a single step but I was captured and on the edge of my seat for the whole time.  The women’s dance was frenzied, panicky, desperate. They danced in unison, sometimes repeating the same phrase over and over at a frenetic pace, moving huddled together in mesmerising rhythmic, earthy patterns, like animals cornered. They would split apart, running and moving everywhere, then return to the safety of the herd. The feeling of terror and desperation as each girl thought she might be picked out was tangible.  The costumes were simple and cream coloured and were soon covered in the peat from the floor. The men’s bare torsos, heaving and pumping with energy, were quickly dirty and smeared, rendering them, (the men that is) basic and primal.

Passing from one girl to the next was the terrifying, red dress. Though tiny and inert,  it seemed to be the most powerful presence on stage.    The young girl who finally became the ‘chosen’ one in said, red dress, danced herself to death with an outstanding performance. What a sacrifice.

The Man’s verdict on Rite of Spring? ‘Well, what was all that about?’ You just cannot tell what a person will enjoy when it comes to the arts can you? It’s all so subjective.

Next performance visit will be American in Paris  Watch this space.

All photographs used in this post are taken from the English National Ballet programme. Individual photographers were not credited so I cannot credit them here. I hope they don’t mind. 

Note 24…I’m Just a Walkin’ the Dog…

up and down

View across to Axen Farm

Nearly every day I walk with the dog at least 1.5k and today I decided to go a bit further so got The Man to drop me in Symondsbury Village so that I could pick up the Monarch’s Way and walk back to Wooth. I tried measuring it on the map and it seemed to be 8k. It was in fact 7k but felt like 10k. This is because it was cross-country, up and down hills, muddy footpaths and really a bit of a ‘hike’. Nevertheless I enjoyed it and so did the dog.

centre of Symondsbury

Centre of Symondsbury Village Where Our Walk Began

I wasn’t sure of where we were going so I did not let the dog off the lead until we were nearly home and in a field that we knew well and no possibility of sheep. Also, I could see no other dogs at all. I have to be a little bit careful with her because she’s a bit unpredictable and although she’s not out to kill another dog, she does like to show them who is boss. A bit like most women I guess. But, it can be a tad embarrassing when she ‘goes’ for them even though it’s all noise and not much else. I tend to warn people who appear with their dear little doggies off the lead and charging all over the place. As I may have said before, at least I can say I’ve got control over my dog (to a degree) whereas they haven’t.

Well Cleared and Signed Bridleway/Footpath (I think this must be a cross-country course too).

This brings me to a little bug bear I have about other owners. We are so lucky to have a multitude of public footpaths in this area and most of them go through farmland. They are often clearly signed with, ‘please keep your dog on the lead’ and I am staggered how many people don’t bother.

keep dog on lead

This Sign is at Pymore Airport 

Unless your dog is highly trained, which is quite rare I think, there is always a risk they will run off through a load of sheep.  They also run over newly sown fields and generally run amok. A relation of mine in Buckinghamshire has a farm with public footpaths and he’s forever moaning about the ‘bloody walkers with their dogs off the lead and running all over the place.’ I can understand now exactly how he feels.

 

View Towards the Sea (left) and View Towards Home (right) 

When a loose dog comes hurtling towards me I usually call to the owner and ask them to get them back before my dog decides whether she’s friendly or not. But dogs generally ignore their owners it seems. Secondly I’m fed up with reading signs in villages about ‘clean up’ after your dog, when there is no bin in which to put it when you have collected it. I ALWAYS pickup after my dog even when we’re in the middle of the countryside,  if she decides to empty herself in the centre of a public footpath then I don’t leave it for someone to tread in.  I have bio-degradable bags which I then bury or make sure I put deep in the centre of a very big hedge. If necessary I will walk with it until I find the right place. Sometimes it’s easy to ‘stick and flick’ to get rid of it. But why? Oh WHY, do people bag it and hang it in a tree?? What is that all about?

Colmers Hill

Looking Back To Colmer’s Hill – Which was Close to Where Our Walk Began

By the way…on today’s walk I didn’t see any litter, rubbish in the hedgerows, not one bit and I never saw any ominous black bags hanging in trees. So a good morning all round!

 

 

 

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.

Lower Ash Farm Flowers

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.

woman with shopping bag copy

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…