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!

soberoctober

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 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…

Note Number 13…Winter Walking and Wildlife…

My sister-in-law came to stay for a few days over New Year and I took her out walking with me and the dog.  She comes from Carrickfergus NI and she walks more in the town than the countryside.  She bombarded me with excited comments on all the flora and fauna we saw whilst we were ambling through the lanes and over the fields. Actually she was ambling I was trying to keep up a good walking pace.

On our little outing she noticed every blade of grass, each leaf, all the ferns, the wildlife and the pièce de résistance…the mole hills. She had never seen one before. apparently they don’t have moles in Northern Ireland. That did surprise me. More information if you have it please?

 

The point is, it made me think about how lucky I am each day when I walk out with the dog and that I must never take for granted the things I see.  This last week I have seen, two rabbits, a fawn, several pheasants, squirrels, a heron, many, many birds that I should be able to identify but cannot, a hare and of course sea-gulls. I also saw a dead fox and a dead badger.  If you add to this the domestic animals I see, that would include, dogs, sheep, cows, cattle…all different breeds of course, and today I saw geese, beautiful and noisy they were, even Jpeg decided not to get too close!

img_2889

The lovely geese we met on our Sunday morning walk today (8th January 2017)

img_2868

If you look really closely you can see the deer, probably better in the top picture. I wish I could take better photographs but t I only ever have my phone on me and I’m never quick enough! 

img_2874

Even though I keep Jpeg on a long lead for most of her walk she has a wonderful time, there are so many smells, noises and things to see on our walk she’s never bored and we always go for at least 3k Today we did 8k a record! 

While we were in Italy there was a definite lack of wildlife as the hunters shoot practically everything that moves between September and February but we did see porcupine and once I saw a fox in our field, but generally, there was little, but I would be pleased to hear differently.

rabbit-copy

Sadly I can’t take the credit for this photo but it is cute…