Note Number 40…Cycling, Creating Havoc, Circumnavigating… IOW

Er...someone taking the P?

Kelvin, The Man and Lou…someone’s ‘aving a larf! 

This wasn’t my first visit to the Isle of Wight, if you remember, we went in August 2016 – for The Man to cycle round it. He went again a few weeks ago so you would have thought he’d had enough but no, he had to do it again. This time it was a team effort with the members of Bridport Cycles. It was the inaugural Kapton Krypton HandiKup IOW. A cycle ride for a club member who has the big C and wanted to set something up for the time when he might not be here. It was decided they should make the first ride in 2017 and that he could participate in his own memorial ride, (which would be a first). Twelve of the riders cycled from Bridport Cycle shop in Symondsbury to Lymington on Friday 13th to catch the ferry.  On Saturday, thirty-two of them cycled around the IOW and then on Sunday, ten cycled back to Dorset and their various homes around the county. A bloody good show I say. The Man did the whole thing and I was very proud of him…around 215 miles in total. I tagged along behind, carrying bags, spare parts and a pump…  One member was lost on the Friday due to mud on the road and a subsequent broken wrist, he bravely cycled on to the half way point of the morning, Ruby’s Cafe in Wool and then cycled home again…What a star.

Broken Wrist

Brave Man…home at last nursing a broken wrist…There’s always next year Lloyd  (photo curtesy Liz I assume) 

On Saturday evening there was dinner at the Albion Hotel, who, despite very late notice, managed to turn out a scrumptious meal for thirty at a very reasonable cost to all. In fact, they were only given our menu choice at 7.30pm and dinner was served at 8pm. Not bad eh?

I wrote this poem on Saturday afternoon and I’m sharing it with you here.

KK HandiKup – Isle of Wight Circumnavigation

A couple of Richards, a Tom Dick and Harry,
A Cat and a Bev, don’t think there’s a Sally?
I find it hard to remember the names
And when in their Lycra they all look the same.

They cycled around either clockwise or anti
Some followed their own – modus operandi
Stopping for coffee, tea and for lunch
They really are an eclectic bunch

It wasn’t a race but they wouldn’t be told
Some of them rushing as if going for gold
Others taking time, enjoying the ride
Cutting the corners – I’m on their side

I drove the back-up, following the mob
Well, actually, I wasn’t really sure of my job
I decided at lunch they could manage without me
And retired to my hotel for cake and for tea

Nobody wanted a pill or a plaster,
On the day, there was no major disaster
Surplus to requirement, of me there was no need
So I set about organising the evening feed

We had dinner on Saturday at the Albion Hotel
Which is stuck in the 80s, not a great sell
They did their best with the troublesome lot
I fear, the managers, may have lost the plot

But, prizes were given, people did shout
Others moaned and gave a good pout
But, I hope they all had a jolly good time
And didn’t find it too much of a pantomime!

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The photographs are not all mine but I hope nobody minds me using the odd couple that aren’t.

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©

Salento…sun…sea…

IMG_0877

Beach at Gallipoli

The Man, Jpeg and I took a trip to Puglia. It was a six hour drive down the A14, a piece of cake for hardy travellers like us. I packed sandwiches, drinks and fruit for us and water for the dog. As regular readers know, we like to listen to an audio book and the choice for this journey was Sons and Lovers, by D H Lawrence, read by Robert Powell. I loved it and now want to read the book as I think quite a lot of content may have been cut. Next choice was The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, part 1, by Edward Gibbon read by Bernard Mayes. I’m afraid I was less attentive to this one so drifted in and out, whilst The Man was soaking it all in so I can ask him questions on the subject should I need to…enough said.

We had a little trouble when we got close to our destination as the sat nav said one thing and the directions from the villa owner said another, neither of which, in retrospect, seemed to be that good, but we did eventually find the place and ‘Dave’ not the villa owner but the friendly, do-anything-for-you, man. He was the perfect meeter and greeter, he really couldn’t do enough for us, making sure everything was right for our holiday.

The villa was a typical Pugliese house, white, square building (bungalow I suppose you would say) with a flat roof. Generally, the buildings in Salento have a strong Arabic influence, painted white, some with arched windows and courtyards. Our place had a high wall round part of it and fencing with trees. We could shut Jpeg safely in the shaded garden area at the back of the house when we went out and let her roam pretty much everywhere in the grounds when were home, which was good. But, there wasn’t roof terrace or anywhere elevated from which to view the surrounding countryside. I guess even if there had been there wouldn’t have been that much to see, because Puglia is, for the most part very flat.

The area was very different from how I thought it would be. It was a lot like Spain and although I haven’t been there, I imagine, like Mexico. Maybe it was the ubiquitous huge cactus plants that encouraged my thinking.

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The roads are flat and straight, with extensive olive groves on each side and where the groves are absent then there are small houses or shacks with allotments, fields of crops and also a great deal of wasteland or perhaps it’s more uncared for land, as though at one time there was a lot going on and now it’s just abandoned.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it all that first day.

It was pretty hot, temperatures up in the late 20’s but also very windy. The very bottom of Puglia is called Salento and for the first week of our holiday we covered as much ground as we could, visiting major towns inland and on the coast. Very quickly we decided that for us the western coast, with the Ionian Sea was the most pleasant place to take a dip. Specifially, Pescoluse, where there was a sandy beach and warm clear sea to swim in, sunbeds, a café or two. The eastern coast between Gallipoli and Santa Maria Di Leuca has many sandy beaches and depending on what you want you can take your pick.

I liked the town of Santa Maria Di Leuca, on the very tip of Italy’s heel, land’s end, ‘Finibus Terrae’ . We had a seafood lunch on the seafront, huge grilled prawns and delicious fried mixed fish. After a walk along the lungomare (promenade), a quick and yummy ice-cream stop, we drove up to the point where the lighthouse stood and admired the view down over the town. Lovely place. We returned again the second week.

Otranto is on the east coast. Another lovely town and the town beach was clean enough but didn’t inspire me to swim or even paddle.

We went to Otranto to hire a bike because The Man did not think that the ‘shopping bikes’ available at our villa, were good enough for him. I told him he was a bike snob and he agreed but still wanted to go ahead and hire something better. He wasn’t able to rent a road bike so had to make do with a rather splendid mountain bike. I believe there is some distinction to those who know about these things. For me – I would rather use Shanks’s pony.  (just in case you don’t know the expression).Jpeg and I walked everyday, but it was a bit boring along the flat roads. I did venture into the massive olive groves and allow the dog to run through the trees but it was all too easy to get lost as the paths through the trees all looked the same.

Sadly, the olive trees and some of the fruit trees in the area have fallen victim to a bacterial infection. Many of them look dried up and dying. It seems there has to be a significant cull, which has in part been carried out. But, it is a disaster for the area economically and possibly ecologically. Of course it will change the landscape dramatically.

Lecce is a beautiful town architecturally, but you do have to get right into the old centre to appreciate it, because on the periphery of the city and even immediately outside the centro storico, there are several 1960 concrete monstrosities. Buildings that in my opinion should be razed to the ground. However, in the oldest part of town, walking through the old streets, with the travertine slabs underfoot, one can easily visualize the town hundreds of years ago. But The Man is the historian, not me, so I will just leave you with a few photos.

The second week of our holiday we were expecting my son Joe to arrive. He was flying from Stansted to Brindisi to spend a few days R&R with us, as he had been a bit poorly at the tail end of May and beginning of June. He should have gone to Thailand with his twin brother Wills to celebrate their 30th birthday but, unable to go, Puglia seemed like a good second choice. The flight was after all, only 2 hours 40 mins not fourteen hours – but was it? Here, I insert a warning….do not track your family or friends’ flights on any Internet app… just saying, because…

The trip from our villa to Brindisi airport was about an hour so I thought I would check to see if the flight had taken off on time. On the flightaware website I could see that it had taken off twenty minutes late and had risen to 37,000 feet and was cruising happily. I popped out quickly with the dog, had a bite to eat and then about an hour into the flight I checked again. Imagine my HORROR….when I saw the the plane had made a kind of loop on the graph and then appeared to make a rapid descent dropping quickly on the graph to 3,500 feet and then NOTHING!! Oh my God!… I was speechless.

Conversation,
Me. Err, look at this…do you think there’s something wrong with the app?
TM Well, it could be but I doubt it. There will be an explanation.
Me I’m going to the airport, leaving now. (I could see myself as one of those grief stricken relatives weeping and waiting for news.)
TM I’m coming with you.
Me No it’s fine, I’ll be fine.
TM I’m definitely coming – bring your passport. (this was, he told me later, in case we had to fly somewhere!

We both headed quickly out of the house, a heavy silence between us. Both having awful thoughts but not communicating them. I had already googled, ‘latest news of plane crash; Ryanair; plane lost over Europe; Terrorist on board flight…; etc., etc., But nothing had come up.

About quarter of an hour into our journey my mobile rang and The Man answered it.
‘Yes…okay…where are you now?…still on the plane…on the ground?…okay, don’t worry, we’re on our way to the airport so we’ll carry on and wait…two hours, right, bye.

‘He’s okay, he’s at Frankfurt, the plane was diverted because someone was taken ill on board. They’ll be delayed for a couple of hours…phew…!!!’
I will never track a plane again, too stressful.

Back to Puglia.

 

As mentioned earlier we drove around the whole peninsular of Salento and noticed that many of the towns were run down, particularly in the north-east, with businesses closed up and weeds growing along the pavements and in the gutters. Some were like ghost towns. We asked a few questions and were told that it wasn’t the holiday season yet. Italy goes on holiday in August and maybe the last week of July. But even this didn’t account for the garage closures and boarded up shops. We didn’t think they would ever open and Lecce’s closest beach San Cataldo where everyone is supposed to rush to for the weekend was just a huge empty car park, a closed down amusement centre and a vile looking restaurant. I would love to think that in the middle of August that all is pristine and buzzing…but.

 

Gallipoli is definitely worth a visit. Like many other Italian towns you have to fight your way through the outskirts of trading estates, bad roads and dreadful signage, but once in the old centre it’s a wonderful place. After parking in the massive port car park (free of charge!) we walked up to the town and around the sea wall. The beach was small and frequented by locals. There were many small restaurants to choose from, all serving great seafood so we picked one, sat in the sun (and wind) and enjoyed our lunch before walking around the rest of the town. We met an old local man who told us that he had worked on the cruise ships before retiring and had been all over the world but that Galipoli was his home town and it was the best place on earth to be. ‘Especially for the food!’ he added. I have to agree the food in Puglia was excellent.

 

Agriturismo Sombrino was close to our villa and recommended by Dave (remember him from a thousand words ago?) We visited the place on two occasions, once on a Thursday evening and once for Sunday lunch. The menu was typically Italian, antipasti, (starters) primo,(usually pasta) secondo,(main course) dolce (dessert). On the Thursday we just went for antipasti and primo plus a little fruit and it was all plentiful and excellent. On the Sunday, we decided to go in for the whole damn lot, which at 25 euro a head including wine, water and coffee had to be a winner. The antipasti consisted of 10 different dishes, (fish, cheese, tarts, stuffed mushrooms, peppers, salmon cakes, to name just six) we were already a little full after that but managed the primo, which was, olive leaf pasta with sausage meat and tomato sauce. The shape of the pasta had been invented by the Agriturismo padrona, who told us, ‘ we make this pasta and then the others all copied us, now you can buy it anywhere in Puglia.’ She was not happy about this, you could tell by the head slapping, shrugging of shoulders and the pained expression on her face.

The main course was pork, slow cooked and melt in the mouth, with just a few potatoes. It was the best pork I have ever eaten for tenderness and flavor, but I couldn’t quite finish it – I was stuffed. However, I thought I should make an effort for desert and had some fresh fruit. The Man chose pannacotta which was a mistake because the pannacotta in Puglia is much denser and heavier than in Le Marche. We were full to the brim but guess what?!? At our neighbouring table sat two young people, the bride and groom (gli sposi) from the previous day’s wedding…and,
‘we would be so pleased for you to share some of our wedding cake and a glass of Prosecco…’ Well, you can’t say no can you?

 

I was in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon and evening and swore never to eat anything again for at least four days. Of course that lasted about 24 hours, I mean when you’re on holiday you’ve got to indulge haven’t you?

And…here we are in Dorset…

beautiful morning

Wonderful crisp morning walk in the fields 

Olivespastavino is taking time out in England. You might wonder why I would choose to come to England at this time of year when the sun is shining in Le Marche, Italy and people are flocking to the beaches for lunch (but no ice-cream as it isn’t the season for it). The Man is also wondering why he’s here, as his most favourite thing to do is ride his road bike and since being in England the weather has been…shall we say…challenging?

I have enjoyed frosty morning walks with Jpeg who is getting to grips with the England language, rain, narrow muddy roads, horses, badger sets and sea gulls. I am getting a great deal of use out of my Wellington boots acquired on our last visit back in October and I’ve had to add a pair of waterproof trousers to my wardrobe.

Since I’ve been here I have rediscovered the joys of the English pub lunch, pub quiz and pub darts. I have not seen a single pasta meal on any pub menu, but pies, fish and chips or curry are regular daily specials on the chalkboard.

cottagepie

Cottage Pie…good English pub grub

I’ve enjoyed visiting the farm shops, Felicity’s Farm Shop   and Washingpool Farm Shop and buying fresh farm grown vegetables, organic meat, eggs, milk etc.,

Bridport, our closest town is thriving, it has a market twice a week, lots of book shops, antique and second hand shops, cafes pubs and more.  The Man thinks the town stays busy because there is no ‘out-of-town’ shopping mall (thank goodness). More about Bridport on the next blog post.

The banks are full of daffodils and wild primroses. It makes me smile to see them.

daffodils

Italy and England are diverse in terms of climate, culture and cuisine…

The people in Dorset have welcomed us with smiles and encouraging words, they couldn’t be more helpful…and it was the same when we arrived in Italy some years back…the only difference is I don’t have to a phrase book here.

The coastline here is fantastic…the Jurassic Coast, where you can find a fossil with every footstep you take. It was a bit windy the day we went…

wildsea

Rough sea. A bracing walk along the beach.

I have enjoyed the close proximity to London – well not that close but two hours and fifteen minutes on the train.  About the same time it takes to fly from Ancona to Stansted, but then there’s a lot of hanging about and checking in, boarding, walking, customs, passports etc., etc., it’s much easier to hop on a train.  Our closest station is Crewkerne, it’s a country station which could be used as a film set for the Victorian era with only a few alterations.  I love it.  There’s only one platform in use, so it’s impossible to get lost but I suppose you could get on a train going in the wrong direction if you’ve left your sense of direction at home.

crewkernestation

And finally, The Man has a shed in which to keep his bike when it’s not in use, which seems to be most of the time right now. That’s a bit mean of me, he did go out today for an hour and a half, in search of a Roman road which sadly he didn’t find – he did bring back enough mud on the bike to pot up a few plants though, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

thenewshed

I haven’t turned my back on Italy – far from it, but when I go back (which will be often) I want to be a tourist.