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.

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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.

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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 39…Home and Away…

Jpeg in the shade of an olive tree

Jpeg back in her home country…I actually think she prefers England…but who knows? 

We returned to the place in Italy where we lived for eight years and it was a strange experience. Full of mixed emotions and a short journey of discovery about the impossibility of turning back the clock. We had a wonderful time when we lived there. We loved the weather and made good friends, but folks move on and things change. For four weeks, we stayed in a lovely house in Montevidon Combatte, about 4 kilometres away from Petritoli, our Italian ‘home town’. We were meant to be on holiday but it never felt like that to me. It was as if I still lived there. The consequence of which meant that I couln’t be bothered to go sightseeing – in fact I couldn’t be bothered to do anything which is not only silly it was a waste of time. I must admit I did enjoy lazing in the sun by the pool

We had a fabulous pool and the surrounding Marche countryside was as lovely as ever. 

I tried, unsuccessfully, to write. I managed to produce four poems whilst staying near Lucca in the apartment on my own with the dog. The Man cycled from Rimini to Pisa with his mates from More Adventure … but after that short period of time, the muse disappeared – stage left.

Now, we are home in Dorset, the weather on Thursday was beautiful and welcoming after our long drive back. We stayed in two different places this time on our return journey. The first stop was Asti where we had a brilliant apartment, close to the centre, with secure parking and it was seriously dog friendly. Fabio (the owner) was most welcoming and couldn’t do enough for us and Jpeg, which went over her head of course. She travels quite well but after six hours in the back of the car she’s had enough. We do stop every now and then for short breaks, not just for the dog to stretch her legs but for us too – and to change drivers.

Our excellent accommodation in Asti

Asti did not grab me, there was no ‘wow’ factor to it, except for the enormous car-park in the centre, the biggest town centre car park I have ever seen. It is used for the annual Palio (horse race). I didn’t realise they had one so something I must read up on. I’m not sure the photo does the size of the car-park justice…but it was a whopper!

Asti Central Car Park

An average meal was taken at the Tartufo D’Oro and the man overcharged us… we paid for someone else’s pizza and bottle of water as well as our own food. Should have checked the bill more carefully GB! We paid cash so no chance of a refund. Anyway, I think I’m at the end of the line with Italian food. I love it, but the menu does not vary from place to place…I don’t care if I never see another slice of prociutto crudo (Parma ham perhaps to you), accompanied by formaggio (cheese) and melon…for at least ten years.

Next stop was Bourges, (which I kept calling Bruges, much to The Man’s amusement)…
I am in love…

i love bourges

We arrived somewhat harassed as the trip from Asti took much longer that we expected with traffic hold-ups etc., fortunately we had started early in the morning (09.45) so got to our accommodation before dark. I had chosen the hotel Chatueau De Lazenay because the room had a little kitchenette which would allow me to cook. Sadly, it was lacking in utensils of any kind and although Eric, at reception said we could ring down for anything we wanted and they would bring it up. I couldn’t be bothered. My enthusiasm for cooking up a delicious meal flew out of the window to join the aforementioned muse.

The best thing about the hotel was the situation. It was beside a beautiful lake with a path surrounding it for walking, running and cycling of 6k. (Actually, I’m not sure about the cycling). I took the dog out as the light began to fade and she had a wonderful walk, as did I. Following her supper, she gave a big sigh as she finally got into her bed and realised she was out of the car…at least for the time being.  She is so good and always relaxes fully in any B&B, hotel room or apartment that we rent, allowing us to go out and eat without any fuss.

The lake and the pathway and Jpeg (she’s not too keen on the water but was fascinated by the birdlife) 

We took a taxi into town for an extortionate €20 to the restaurant Gargouille….  A great meal was had, French cuisine is always excellent and it was a welcome change from Italian. I had decided to embark on #soberoctober so no wine or champagne for me on this trip but I did have a delicious glass of lemonade. The Man had vegetable soup, steak, and lemon meringue pie. I had fish and chips followed by pannacotta with bourbon biscuits and forest fruits, served in a kilner jar. No photos I’m afraid. I became irrationally embarrassed at the thought of photographing my food with my Iphone…but I did photograph the drinks!

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I cannot wait to go back to Bourges next year when we plan a longer trip around France. I want to explore this beautiful town and all it has to offer. We are in fact, going to take lessons to improve our French beyond O’ level standard…at the moment, whenever I open my mouth to speak French, Italian comes out!

A little taste of Bourges…

Note Number 33…When The Man’s Away…

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve not had time to write much (not on my blog anyway). Poor excuse I know but The Man rode his bicycle for a week in the Alsace (Vosges)  and then instead of coming home on the 25th June he took the opportunity to cycle four epic climbs in The Alps and the Pyrenees. I am so proud of him!

Check out the Slide Show!

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I made the most of his absence by tidying up the garden and painting the garden furniture. It all looks fabulous. Paint used was Ronseal Garden paint and I can highly recommend it. We had some great weather in June…no complaints from me.

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Newly Painted Garden Furniture

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Splendid Work on the Herbaceous Border 

Other things I did while The Man was away.

  1. I attended my third Black Venn Poetry workshop in Lyme Regis. I find these highly stimulating and never fail to produce a piece of work of which to be proud. I’ve even entered one for a competition, I’ll let you know how it goes.
  2. I entered a 2700 word short story for a competition run by the Literary Trust…It had to be a modern version of a fairy story. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, (I’m sure a few others will have done the same). I will let you know what happens, if anything, later in the year. I was pleased with it but don’t hold out too much hope as there will be plenty of brilliant entries I’m sure.
  3. I went to Bristol and to Weston Super Mare for my grand daughter’s first playgroup outing. It was…err…memorable. The day before it had been 30 degrees but the day of the outing, the rain clouds came in and the temperature dropped over 10 degrees the wind got up…

    So the sand ended up in everything, not just our sandwiches but in our hair and underwear. (think there’s a poem there somewhere). The baby ate the sand and the four-year-old got it in her eyes. But she still managed a donkey ride and an ice-cream before we beat a hasty retreat back to Bristol for a cup of tea and a piece of cake!

  4. I deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom in our cottage.
  5. I watched Poldark on Sunday evening.
  6. I have started doing Driving for the Disabled with the Forde Abbey Driving Group. Driving is a branch of Riding for the Disabled but we have ponies pulling carriages which are able to take wheelchairs if necessary.
    DRIVING

    Driving through the Arboretum at Forde Abbey

    I joined the group at the end of last year and so far, for many reasons, I have missed several sessions but I’m back on track now. It’s something I did for years when I lived in Devon and had my own pony, Ginger. Lovely he was. I don’t feel the need to get another pony but I am enjoying other people’s. I have to be re-assessed as a Coach Driver – more form filling and courses to attend. More learning and stuff to remember, for my poor brain to cope with. Hoping it won’t take long.

  7. I went to the ballet in Bridport and saw  Ballet Central. It was an excellent performance of several short pieces. The company is made up from students in their final year. By the look of things some of them will go far. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. How they managed to adapt to the small stage,without loss of performance, was quite remarkable. Well done all! 
  8. I read a few books, some better than others, but I enjoyed them all. The last one was My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding. I loved it, a beautifully written memoir of her childhood up to her twentieth year when she went to Cambridge University. I don’t know much about horse racing but I do love horses and dogs and that is the basis of her book. It’s written honestly and openly.

I think that’s most of the important stuff covered. Oh I did fall over and graze arm and knee pretty badly and when there’s no-one at home and even the neighbours are away you just have to get on with it don’t you?

It got worse before it got better but thankfully nothing broken…Oh wait a minute, I broke my tooth the following day. That’s three things then…no more to come, hopefully. 

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 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 15…Logs…Targets and Totals…

I have been trying to walk further with the dog, Jpeg (note number 16 will tell you why she’s called that) and The Man introduced me to Strava. It’s an App you can get on your phone and it’s really for people who run, cycle or swim but, he kept on at me, (as men do) because he uses it for cycling and he was convinced it would get me walking more. So I downloaded it to my smart phone. Strava logs your activity for you, making a little map, it gives you information such as the time you take to cover a kilometre or mile, how far you’ve travelled, etc., etc., Then you load it from your phone onto the Strava website and everyone can see what you’ve done. You get a little ‘personal best’ cup if you walk the same bit of road in a faster time and you can follow people and they can follow you, it’s a kind of Facebook for athletes. I feel a bit stupid on it really because I’m just walking the dog and others are swimming the channel, running 10k and cycling a 100k – sometimes all three in the same day! BUT, it has worked to a certain extent as I now think about how far I’m walking each week and trying out different places to go. So thumbs up to Strava…oh and other people can give you kudos so you feel good about yourself, which is always good for the self-esteem.

index

Please note the Running shoe on the Icon…I am invariably in wellies or walking boots. See below.

welliesI don’t think Jpeg cares about targets except how many birds she can chase

hill

One of the many, muddy hills I struggle up, fighting against the strava clock ….phew!

I have also been trying to lose weight and get fit after Christmas, along with The Man, who is wanting to do lots of long cycle rides in 2017, some of which will take him over the Alps so he has to be ‘superfit’. Making a note of how much you lose every other day, and writing down what you eat is so helpful. Checking calories – it’s amazing how they add up, 50 here 50 there, soon become 200 or 300.  I haven’t got an App for this but I know there are plenty around.  But, the diet is going well, I’m 6 pounds down and The Man is 11 pounds down, going on a stone…so happy bunnies all round.

Things we’re not eating right now…

 

Things we are eating right now…note, no grapes The Man says, “They are sugar bombs!”

My other aim is to finish this novel ‘Oh, we’ve heard all that before!’ I hear you cry. But, honestly, I am getting down to it, aided by a programme that I have for writing called Scrivener. I love it and I can set my word target for the whole novel and a word count for each session that I type and watch it going up. I have it set for 2000 words a day, and when I’ve completed that number a message pings up on the screen – You have reached your target – which is a great feeling. Of course, half of what I’ve written is probably rubbish but, nevertheless I’m writing!

target

Whoops! Look at that…not a singe word yet today…and my deadline for 85,000 words is the end of March. Now you ALL know about it,  I will have to get on with it!

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…

eviepopsienonna

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