Note Number 77…The Times They are a Changing…

 

university

My university campus has all but closed down, and from next Monday all lectures and seminars will be online. I’ve been coughing since Friday and have self-isolated. Although, as there is no automatic testing in the UK I could just have a ‘seasonal cough’. .Thank goodness we live in the countryside and only The Man might be within a metre of me. . .

At the moment I can still walk the dog. It’s easy not to meet anyone. But, she has been a bit poorly. The vet kindly carried out a telephone consultation, (with me, not the dog) to diagnose the problem. . . she needed a special diet to sort out her ‘tummy troubles’. After couple of doses of paste from a tube, four ‘special’ (exceedingly expensive) meals. She is — as of this morning — right as rain. Is rain correct word? I think we’ve had a little too much of that lately. (I wonder how long we’ll have to keep on with the exceedingly expensive food? 

 

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Jpeg in happier sunny tummy days ….

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Could have done with one of these…

I am disappointed that my uni days are all but over. Now, everything is Skype, WhatsApp, and sharing work via email. I had so enjoyed going to the campus, meeting other students and attending lectures and seminars but. . .

learning

I think, the thing to do in these situations is to turn them to your advantage. I’m not using the car now. So travelling time to Exeter and back can now be recycled into writing time. It’s also making me a much greener person on the planet. Have you read how much difference the ‘lock downs’ are making to the environment already? China has much cleaner air and the canals in Venice are clearer and some dolphins have returned. Is this going to be a massive turning point for the world? I do hope so.

Back to my univeristy work. I have two deadlines, 27th April and 28th April, by which time I need to write two pieces of creative writing of 5000 words each plus one supporting essay and on annotated bibliography.

For the Prose Writing Workshop, I’m dabbling in memoir. For this submission, I also have to write an annotated bibliography using at least five books that I have read. I must give a short descrition of each book and explaination of how the book informed my writing.

My other module is Realism writing. Alongside my creative story, I must submit a 1,500 critial essay. . . I’m not so good at those. I cannot quite get that academic voice going but I’ve been practicing. The best way to learn about writing is by reading. I am at present drowning in novels, short stories, essays, academic how to books and online masterclasses. Phew!

My book shelf

Some of the books I’m currently reading

As well as flights and holidays, so many things are being cancelled. Today I received notification that an event scheduled for this July has been postoned until July 2021. The seriousness of the situation hit home. It’s a strange time to be living through, and it could be a long haul. Keep in touch with family and friends by whichever ways and means you can without putting yourself or others in jeopardy. We have a new grandchild. . . a little boy, but it seems it could be some while before we can give him anything but a virtual cuddle.

 

primrose

Spring is around the corner. . . 

PS. If you notice that this is note number 77 and you thought the last note was 77, you are correct. I had to delete a post from a couple of months ago. I couldn’t stand the numbers being out of sync so had to edit accordingly. Happy Days. x

Note Number 52…Waiting…

 

 

Here is a little poem I put together while I was walking the dog and waiting for her to finish looking into the distance at. . . nothing. It made me think about how much of my life I spend waiting for someone or something. When you’ve read this you can add your own ‘waiting for…’ in the comments.

 

I’m always waiting
waiting for the dog
waiting for the kettle to boil
for the washing machine to finish, for a cake to bake
how much time do I spend waiting?
waiting for the bathroom to be free
waiting for my money to get to the bank
I’ve always waited for that, first birthday gifts, then salary, now pension
I’ve never waited at the altar
even though I’ve been married three times
I’ve waited in the courtroom for a divorce

waiting at the cemetery to watch a burial
waiting to spread the ashes of a loved one
stood, waiting in line to buy a stamp
waited for people to come through the barrier
at the airport or the station
waited for a taxi to come along

Waiting, always waiting
I’m always waiting for my turn,
at the shops, at the doctor’s, at the poetry evening,
at a dance competition when I was younger
for my husband to come back from a bike ride now
I’ve waited to be served, with tea, coffee, cold drink
wine, water, snacks, food
waiting for a letter to come
waiting for an email to tell me good news
waiting for my next birthday
waiting at a junction

waiting for a baby to be born, waiting for a relative to die
we’re born waiting.
pausing, postponing, lingering, hanging around, marking time,
killing time when we should be living time
but
we’re waiting

waiting. . .

always waiting

 

 

Ninette Hartley © February 2018

waiting for computer

This is The Man…every day! 

 

 

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 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.

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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! 

 

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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 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 16…Dog Names…

Jpeg in Dorset January 2017 – 8 years old this March (or thereabouts) 

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ asks a stranger.
‘Jpeg,’ I reply.
‘What? Like the file name?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘How did she come to be called that?’ they ask, with a laugh and sometimes a scoff.

If I have time I tell them…

In 2009, our second summer in Italy, we were preparing a float for the Festa Delle Cove – the festival of corn (like harvest festival) read more here. We were sitting, with friends on a load of straw and picnicking outside our uninhabited and unrestored farmhouse. Along the road, and in through the open gate came three dogs, a brown one, a black and white one and a little sandy coloured puppy. They hung around for a while, ate a few titbits (yes titbits, not tidbits, that’s American apparently, although equally correct). When full, they wandered off into the afternoon sun the same way they’d arrived. A few hours later, the puppy returned alone and was determined to stay. We think the other two dogs might have been her parents and recognised a couple of suckers so sent her back in the hope she would be adopted and no longer be their responsibility.

At the end of the day, we packed up and left to go back up to town and the puppy was still there. ‘If she’s still here tomorrow I’ll think about keeping her. She is so sweet.’ I said. I should add here that I had mentioned, several times over the previous couple of years that I would NEVER have another dog.
Next morning, she was gone, and I was relieved until I saw her sitting on the doorstep of the house at the top of the road. I spoke to our Italian neighbours, ‘Oh, she’s yours? I’m so pleased, I thought she was lost.’
‘No, she’s not ours, I’m taking her to the Comune later today. She’s a stray.’
‘Oh, what will they do with her?’
The neighbour indicated his answer by making a slicing movement with his hand across his throat.
‘No! That’s awful. Please don’t do that. Give me until tomorrow morning to think about it, I didn’t want another dog, but…let me think please…I just have to speak to my other half.’
The neighbour shrugged and agreed, but only for one day, he had to get rid of her the next day.

We went to the bar that night and sat around outside drinking wine and talking, as you do and I told one of our English friends about the little lost puppy.
‘You must keep her Ninette, there’s no question about it. What does she look like?’ This lady was a confirmed dog lover as were most of the people around the table but they weren’t rushing to offer the stray puppy a home you’ll note.
‘Wait a minute, I took some photos today, I’ll go and get one,’ I said and ran home, printed off a photo and scooted back down to the café. (I can’t believe that in 2009 I was still taking all my photos with a camera not a phone…?)

‘Here she is,’ I said and presented the paper to the table and they handed it round with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.
‘Oh look,’ says The Man, ‘It’s Jpeg, see? It says so at the bottom of the page.’
I took the print and yes, that’s what it said under her lovely photo.
JPEG1000236 (see below)

jpeg1-copy
We kept the puppy, obviously, and the name stuck, she suits it and we like it. I don’t like dogs with ‘people’ names although some are okay. Jpeg is perfect…well, her name is anyway! You can see from the photo her skin was in a terrible condition, she had tics, fleas and goodness know what else. She was very quiet and listless most of the time, really sweet, but she soon perked up and became a bundle of energy needing lots of running and attention! There are a few stories to tell about Jpeg, but I’ll save them for another time.

Tell us how your dog or cat got their name…

Italy September 2009 – skin looking better… Ahh, she was so cute…

Note Number 8… These Boots were Made for Walking but not in the rain…

 

In October last year (2015) I bought a fab pair of Joules wellies in Mole Valley Farmers in South Molton. I loved them, all purple pink and flowery and they were fun to wear. Sadly, less than a year later they leaked, I couldn’t believe it and they’d hardly had any use.

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I’d even put plastic bags in the boots but, socks and feet still got wet. 

I tweeted to Mole Valley and to Joules and was impressed by the speed with which they replied and I was offered a full refund on said wellies and managed to replace them with another pair which were twice the price but did the job properly. The power of the Tweet eh?

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New wellies, boring colour but lined, practical and dry. Jpeg had to get a foot into the photo…typical! 

I don’t like walking the dog in wellies I prefer walking boots as it’s much easier to stride out around the countryside, but, of course one needs waterproof walking boots in this climate so I bought a pair of Hi-Tec Borah Peak Waterproof, Women’s Hiking Boots.

boots-copy

The important word here is WATERPROOF… which they were for about three walks. I sprayed them with a waterproof spray but that didn’t work so I phoned Amazon and was told to send them back for a refund. Fortunately we’d kept the box. This was back in March 2016 and we were about to head off to Italy – where the sun shines most of the time incidentally – so I didn’t bother to replace them immediately.

Back in England at the beginning of November, having replaced the wellies,  it was time to also get sorted with new boots. I decided to go the whole hog and buy an expensive pair of Ecco boots, waterproofed with Hydromax© lovely but £160. They were really comfortable and I loved walking in them…but, you can guess what I’m going to say can’t you? I couldn’t believe it the first time when I took them off after a walk and my socks were wet. I decided I must have imagined it and that I had stood on the wet doormat in my socked feet after I’d taken the boots off. So the second time I made sure that I didn’t do anything like it that but…my socks and feet were WET!

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More leaking boots…*sigh*

Back to the shop I went and to the very helpful staf.  They thought the boots were faulty so took them back and said they would send for another pair. Needless to say, I had lost confidence and insisted they replaced them with a different pair of boots made from Gortex©…this they duly did (at the same price). Success!  I am now able to walk over the muddy wet fields and in the puddles along the road with my feet staying dry. How wonderful.

new-boots

Love my New Waterproof Boots with blue laces…

But, wet shoes were only a part of this November. After a weekend away we returned to a cottage with a completely flooded ground floor. Apparently the rain had come down persistently and then in bucket loads of biblical proportion, the road looking like a river, and being the first house after the corner and at the end of a slight downhill segement of road, the water had nowhere else to go but in through the side gate, filling up the garden like a lake and found its way into the cottage under the door…

Lefthand photo…carpet with muddy water partly sucked out…the dark bit was what the whole carpet looked like before any removal of water.  Righthand photo…rolled up carpet ready to be dragged out and thrown into the garden. (it was very heavy!)  It’s hard to see how wet it all was from these pictures. This was with about 2 inches of water, I cannot imagine what it must be like when houses are flooded half way up the walls…horrible.

Ah well, at least I could wear me wonderful wellies to paddle about in the house.

In case you’re worried, it’s all dry now and we await a new carpet which should be down by Christmas. Thank goodness for good neighbours who came to the rescue with hot meals and comforting words. The dog had to stay in the kennels for an extra night, but I don’t think she realised this…she doesn’t seem to know the days of the week very well.

So far in 2016 we’ve suffered from earthquakes in Italy and flooding in England…what next I wonder?