Note Number 19…Valentine’s Day…

many-hearts

So Many Hearts in the World…

I’m sure that millions of couples are celebrating their love today and that’s all fine, but, spare a thought for those who are alone either because they’ve lost the person closest to them for any number of reasons… or there isn’t anyone special right now. The Man and I don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s day because we think it’s all commercial garbage and we reaffirm our feelings all through the year, not just on February 14th. That’s how it should be, we think. I didn’t know the origins of Valentine’s Day so I ‘googled’ and found this and this and a whole lot more but it’s all a bit confused and quite unromantic to say the least. Take a look for yourselves.

Enjoy your day and maybe knock on the neighbours door if they’re alone and need a cheery greeting…but don’t buy your red roses until tomorrow….when they’ll be at least half the price!

Let’s send our love to those on their own
And blow them a kiss and a light.
To shine like a pearl and give strength
In their hearts all through today and tonight

Let’s send good feelings to those who are lost
And give them our friendship to share
Take more than a minute today, to be sure,
That those less fortunate than you, know you care

hearts2-copy

Sending all the above via balloon…

Note Number 18…Facebook Status Asks…’What’s on Your Mind?’..

 

world-peace-copy

I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. My children and my grandchildren. I’m worried about their future. I know that history tells us there has always been something for us to worry about, but we NEVER learn from history. I now have some idea of what it must have been like for my parents and grandparents when WW1 and WW2 were looming. I am genuinely afraid that something awful is going to happen within the next five years.

I don’t know what I can do about today’s situation re Brexit and Trump. I’m worried about both of these things and worrying about it doesn’t help the situation. I haven’t marched on any demonstrations and I haven’t shared many political opinion posts on FB. I’m a bit rubbish at standing up for what I believe in I suppose, but I think more than 75% of us are probably the same. I feel threatened by what’s happening but have a cowardly approach towards doing anything constructive about it. I think it’s my age but then I see plenty of people older than me marching and ranting. I am, in short, a wimp. I dread turning on my iPad in the morning to read the news. Who is hating who? What has Trump done now? What’s Putin up to? How many men, women and children have died during my night?…and I am appalled at what I see…Climate Change…there’s another problem. The world is in a tempestuous state and I don’t like it.

I know that the media has become good at selling us dubious news, but Donald Trump IS A FACT and the stuff he’s churning out is terrifying. I have been lucky. Born in 1950 I have had the best of peacetime in the 20th and 21st centuries (so far), in the United Kingdom. I do know that while there has been no, ‘war’ going on here, on our soil, we have been involved in them overseas. I am ignorant of the facts however. I am also ignorant about the real issues behind Brexit. I voted to REMAIN…because I want a united Europe and I believe that the EU was the best way to keep Europe united. I know that the EU has many problems but I think we should have stayed in and sorted them from within. I think that LEAVING…is going to cost us a great deal both economically and socially. I don’t profess to have a political understanding about any of this, but then do many of us? Probably not…but we still voted.

I have a naïve attitude, I want all the people in the world to love each other and to live in peace together. Isn’t that what every normal person wants? But of course, this can never be because there is always, GREED, POWER and RELIGION…In my humble opinion these, three little words cause all the problems. I don’t think I’m greedy, I don’t want power over anybody or anything, and although I don’t have a particular religion that I believe in I’m quite happy for anyone to follow one of their own choosing. Why can’t all mankind think like this?

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…

Note Number 12, Out With The Old – On With The New…

It was a great family Christmas…now it’s over and I’m missing them all already. It’s been fun, frustrating, full-on, flippant, fancy, fulfilling, fabulous, farty (well all those sprouts and stuffing don’t you know?), feel-good, fortified, fantastic…f*** that’s enough Fs for now!

qwirkle-grid2

A Game of Qwirkle in Progress

Haven’t made any resolutions but we did have a fab time with our neighbours and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law on New Year’s Eve.  We ate chilli followed by bread and butter pudding, then we played Qwirkle – a game I can highly recommend for most age groups. Try it if you haven’t already. Some of us drank a good dose of vino… Fun was had. At 11.45pm we went outside where The Man had previously lit the fire-pit so by then it was roaring beautifully.  To see out the ‘old year’, each of us secretly chose one or more emotions/habits, that we would like to ‘get rid of’ before 2017 came in.   We wrote them on scraps of paper and then threw them into the fire. It was something that we had done at my son’s wedding in Thailand two years ago and it seemed a good opportunity to repeat the experience.  It felt good, ‘letting go’.

fire-pit

Fire-Pit Burning Well – goodbye 2016 hello 2017

Good luck with 2017 all of you and we hope to see as much of our family and as many friends as possible during the year – The Man will insist on a maximum of three nights only if you have to stay. I’m sure he’ll make some comment below as to why that is.

Note Number 9…Thoughts on Christmas…

wreath

Wreath Bought Today…money went to charity. Next year I’m going to make my own but still give some money to charity.

I’ve had good times I’ve had bad times…most of my friends, present and past, have had lives that follow a similar pattern.  But as you get older it becomes more evident that we humans are greedy things. We want our cake and eat it. We want too much in the way of material things and are never happy to be content to just have what we need. It’s nearing Christmas so I suppose that’s what’s making me feel this way. The constant flow of Christmas email offers coming into my inbox is frightening. The advertising in magazines, newspapers and on the television is bombastic. The pressure is on!   There are so many people in the world with absolutely nothing. No home, no family, no food, nothing – and no prospect of things getting any better for them. It makes me angry and sad…  and I know I’m a hypocrite, because I’m not going to give up everything I have and hand it all over to the needy.

In the past I have been without, literally, I have had nothing in my handbag or pocket and searched down the sides of the sofa (at least I had a sofa) for a few coins so that I could collect enough of them together for a meal.  I’ve also had times when the table has been overflowing with food and the cupboards are bursting.   I have worried about only having 50p in my purse and I have worried about having only £50 in my purse. It’s all relative. I have had my fair share of tragedy, losing my dad when I was only thirteen and then losing my lovely son when he was only twenty-seven. But, those events apart, I have been lucky in so many ways.  I am lucky right now…the weather has been pretty rubbish but who cares?  I am free, I’m not hungry and I’m comfortable. Most days I can please myself what I do. I have grown older and wiser.  I’m a bit overweight and should try to lose it – but why? I’m healthy and happy and until I can’t actually get my clothes done up, I’m going to try not to worry about a few pounds of excess body fat.

I could never be as good as those people, who give up their Christmas Day to feed the homeless and needy before they have anything for themselves. But, I fully intend this year to try to do something helpful each day of the holiday. On Facebook I saw an advent calendar and each day it had a good deed to do, which I think is a great idea – much better than eating chocolate!  Doing something kind or helpful does not mean that you have to deprive yourself of anything, it doesn’t even have to cost any money.  Just make sure your neighbour has everything they need…whatever their age. Visit the local home for senior people…(trying to be PC) and maybe take a bottle of sherry for them to have a glass on Christmas day.  I’m sure we can all think of something charitable to do? So far in December I haven’t done enough good deeds but I am trying, honestly.

I bought a wreath for the door today, it cost £10 and the money will go to charity. I’m not going to buy a load of Christmas decorations because it is a waste of money and we won’t be here for Christmas day but with family in Bristol (can’t wait).  How lucky am I to be sharing time with my children and grandchildren and of course The Man…he’s a bit of a bah-humbug.  I’m honestly not a Christmas grump but, I’m going try hard not to be too indulgent this year.

I’m not a religious person but appreciate the part of Christmas that brings people and families together. I do not appreciate the commercial side of Christmas at all and hope that you, readers, will take time out to think of those less fortunate than yourselves at this time of year and I will do the same.

 

 

A little bit of this…a little bit of that…

IMG_0609
I should have written this blog about Venice a while ago…in the middle of May in fact, but as so often happens life and other business gets in the way. My feet hardly touched the ground after our Venice trip as I only had one day at home in Petritoli before rushing back to England for the final show of the Hartley Williamson School of Dance. A North Devon Dancing school that I began over twenty-five years ago and which has been running ever since. When I left the wonderful Maralyn carried on without me and then Davina, a former pupil of ours worked first with Maralyn and carried on to run it on her own for a few years. It was an emotional day with lots of flowers, ballet shoes, tutus and of course tears. But all good things come to an end and we hope all the little ballerinas will find somewhere else to follow their dreams.

Before I go back to Venice I must mention something I forgot to tell you about on our road trip from England to Italy. We went to visit the Bayeux tapestry, a truly magnificent sight and well worth a detour if you’re in the vicinity. They have the whole tapestry behind glass and you follow the story via a recording on a personal handset. I remembered so well being taught in school about this famous tapestry and the killing of Harold with an arrow through the eye. It was amazing to see the REAL thing. Sadly, the weather was atrocious that day so we didn’t really get to see the town at it’s best but I can say the bit we did see made us want to go back one day. Sorry no photos…like I said it was raining, but I have put a link for the museum. Click here

Now to Venice! If you have never been to Venice then it should be on your list of places to go. I have now visited twice and will be happy to return again. You need to get out of the main tourist areas and into the back streets which twist and turn and weave their way over tiny bridges crossing the many small canals that network their way through the town. It’s a place where people live normal lives and go to work. So many tourists, it seems only go to St Marks Square, drink a coffee at one of the famous cafes and queue for ages to go up the Campanile, into the Doge’s Palace or the Basilica…all of these things are great to do but there is so much more to Venice. Also, eating or staying anywhere near this popular area will cost a whole lot more than off the beaten track. It’s the most wonderful city. We travelled this time by train and when you arrive at the station and walk out of the main entrance the first thing you see, apart from a mass of people, is the Grand Canal.

There are no cars, taxis or buses…but there are, of course, plenty of boats! Everything is done by boat so all the services, the police, the ambulances etc., and all the tradesmen travel by boat everywhere. It’s like nowhere else I have ever been. We took the water bus (Vaporetto), you can buy a weekly season ticket for 60 euro which is worth it because otherwise each trip costs €7.50. As the bus is the quickest way to get around then you soon get your money’s worth.The Grand Canal is also serviced by Traghetti, these just cross from one side to the other. They are the same shape as a gondola but have two boatmen on board. It costs around €2 per person.

IMG_0523

A Tragetto

I have never been on a gondola and really don’t wish to. There are so many of them now there are often gondola traffic jams. I think maybe, a hundred years ago it would have been a romantic and inexpensive thing to do but nowadays, it very much a tourist attraction, and I did see more than one gondolier on his smart phone…enough said.

We walked a lot in Venice, mostly around museums. I liked the museum of Modern Art (The Ca Pesaro) which housed some famous works, it gave me a bit of a buzz to see Rodin’s The Thinker and actually touch it, when I had seen it so many times in books and like the Bayeux Tapestry I had been taught about it at school. There were a few modern pieces I couldn’t ‘get’ at all, one that was deliberately unfinished and another which was just a slab of granite on the floor…I’m sure I should understand this stuff but it does nothing for me. I suppose at the very least I’m discussing these pieces!

We did do a couple of touristy things, we took a guided tour to Murano and Burano and I would recommend this to anyone thinking of visiting these two islands. For one thing, if you get a good guide, which we did, then you will learn a great deal about Venice on the boat trips and secondly you will get to visit the glass factory in Murano and watch the masters at work. It was fascinating to watch a ball of hot shapelessness turn into a delicate rearing pony. Most of the glass work on sale at the factory was out of our price range, one beautiful sculpture in the style of Picasso was €28,000 – hey ho…not for us I fear.

Burano is known it’s quaint multicoloured houses and  for it’s lace making which, is sadly now on the decline. There are only a couple of ladies still stitching, it seems the younger generation have no interest in carrying on the tradition. Shame.

IMG_0572

The gorgeous tablecloths and napkins were however, more in our price range so I bought a set plus a table runner. Very pretty. We were told by our guide that the houses were painted different colours so that when the fishermen came home on a friday night, went to the bars and got very drunk they would be able to find their way back to the right house by virtue of which colour it was painted!

 

We took a trip to The Lido and on the boat trip across The Lagoon, (La Laguna) we saw two ships that could not have been more different. One was a beautiful three masted, tall ship, an Italian training ship I believe. It was tied up alongside the Arsenale, it was a sight that draws one quickly back into history and nostalgic for times past. Just after we had passed it by, I turned to look on the other side of our boat and there, I saw it, an absolute monstrosity. A cruise ship looking like a block of flats on the water. It was so big and ugly I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was being guided in by two tugs boats, one pulling from the bow and the other tied to the stern, presumably to keep it on course. It passed us and headed in towards Venice and as I watched it turn the bulk of the ship dwarfed the buildings in St Mark’s Square, in fact the ship blocked our view. No wonder there have been many complaints from the residents of Venice about these cruise ships visiting.

 

The Man decided it would be a good idea to walk the length of the Lido…actually we managed about two thirds of it. I’ve been walking a great deal lately and keep my eye on the ‘steps app’ which told us at the end of the day that we had walked over 23,000 steps!

I LOVED a particular place on The Lido (even though it had cars, buses and trucks on it) We had walked through the main town and out through a bit of an industrial area along the footpath until the footpath no longer existed and then we were walking on the road. I was in the mood for turning around but then we arrived at Malamocco. A gem of a place, away from all the tourists, clean, pretty and a bit like a film set. We found a trattoria for lunch which was busy with local people and a few visitors like us. The waiter was a short older chap with a quick and friendly manner, ‘we got mussels, we got fried fish, we got pasta with fish sauce…’ he actually spoke in Italian though…It was a take it or leave it menu, which we love, so we took it, along with a quarter carafe of white wine for me and a litre of fizzy water for The Man.

At the end of our walk we came upon the Film Festival venue, an ugly looking place…why do the powers that be have to do that? Why could they not have built something classical and attractive instead of a concrete monster? Perhaps I’m a bad judge of architecture…but it wasn’t to my taste.

IMG_0705

The food in Venice was great but expensive even though we ate outside the main tourist areas. I think one can expect to pay between €30 and €50 a head for a decent meal. It was our wedding anniversary one evening, so we felt that splashing out was perfectly acceptable. We arrived at A La Vecia Cavana by accident and it turned out to be one of the best places to eat according to our guide book, (which was ten years old – sorry). I think the reason we liked the restaurant so much was not just the excellent food but the service, our waiter made us feel important and he did all the right things to make sure our meal was the best experience it could be. The walls of the restaurant were covered in photos, some famous people and some family and they had a great piano player which added the final romantic touch to the evening. My mother would have loved it, all the old familiar songs.

One of my sons has an Italian girlfriend and her sister works in a bar in the San Polo district of Venice and after many wrong turnings we eventually found it. It was packed with young local people, not a tourist in sight and we enjoyed a drink for a normal price, a glass of Prosecco and a glass of Crodino for only 5 euro. It was supposedly called La Poppa, but that was one of the problems we had when looking for it, the name was in the process of being changed either from or to La Poppa but no-one seemed very sure. Typically Italian.

I took hundreds of photos of Venice and I would love to upload them all but that could be boring so I’ll leave you with these…

 

We’re now in Puglia so I’ll let you know about this area of Italy in my next post which I hope won’t be too long away.

Trip to England…family…friends…fabulous…

Beautiful English Countryside

Beautiful English Countryside

I know you’ve all been dying to know how we got on with the cat and the dog on our drive to England from Italy.
Well…it is not something that I would wish to repeat – at least not with the cat who miaowed for most of the 1200 miles (poor chap) but took less than twenty-four hours to settle in his new home in Essex where he is being thoroughly spoilt!

Mickey, settled in Leigh on sea, looks as though he's been there forever!

Mickey, settled in Leigh on sea. He looks as though he’s been there forever!

We were full up with luggage and at one point Jpeg did try to get on top of it all so that she could be closer to us!

Our little polo packed full...only a tiny space left for Jpeg

Our little polo packed full…only a tiny space left for Jpeg

Jpeg on top of the luggage...poor dog

Jpeg on top of the luggage…poor dog

Most of the stress of the trip was caused by the fact that our Italian vet wrote the wrong date on the animal passports for their last check and the dog’s worm tablet which had to be no less than 24 hours before entering the UK and no more than120 hours, a big enough margin but of course he had to make a balls up of it – and he also omitted to put in the time but wrote next year’s date instead! Goodness knows why. When I realised his mistake I called him and he just said, ‘change it, it’s no problem.’ But of course I did think it was a problem and I was convinced that the dog and cat would be impounded at Calais because I had tampered with the passports. I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before we left and had little rest on our two nights en route. First night in Aosta, second in St Quentin.

Mickey taking it easy with The Man in our hotel in San Quentin

Mickey taking it easy with The Man in our hotel in St Quentin

As it happened everything went well at Calais, but I was so nervous I couldn’t get the scanner to work and read the animal’s microchips, particularly the cat who was absolutely terrified when I lifted off the lid of his box and a stupid man with a huge black Labrador allowed said Labrador to put his humungous nose up the cat’s bottom!‘I’ve got a cat here!’ I shouted but he was an ignorant self-important man who ignored my obvious distress and went about his own business not caring what happened to me or my cat. The French animal immigration lady tried to remain calm but obviously thought she was dealing with an idiot (me) so she spoke loudly and slowly,
‘You are doing eet wrong. You must make ze circle movement over ze shoulders of ze animal, you are not following my instruction!’  I bloody well was following her instructions – I needed help, where was The Man when needed? Thankfully, he was close by and able to   hold the dog while I got the hang of the scanning machine.

Relaxing at Calais after arduous scanning at 'animal passport control'

Relaxing at Calais after arduous scanning at ‘animal passport control’

Travelling with the cat and the dog was bad enough, but imagine taking a ferret?  It must be quite a popular animal to take abroad because they even have a tick box dedicated to them on the pass for your car window. We didn’t see a single ferret – or horse for that matter, but they would be a little difficult to smuggle in one would imagine.

1 dog, 1 cat, no ferret (although you could be forgiven for thinking the ferret box had a positive tick!)

1 dog, 1 cat, no ferret (although you could be forgiven for thinking the ferret box had a positive tick!)

The dog was as good as gold throughout the whole of the journey, jumping in and out of the car no problem.  She seemed to loved England, all those different smells and no problem with the language.  During October she slept in several different locations and as long as she had her bed, her food and we were close by she never made any fuss. For five days we left her with friends in Bristol and we were told that she behaved impeccably – although when we went to collect her there was no way she was going to  let us out of her sight or out of any door without her!

Picnic at Ashton Court Bristol - Jpeg loved it!

Picnic at Ashton Court Bristol – Jpeg loved it!

Jpeg's friend Luca in Devon

Jpeg’s friend Luca in Devon (and his owner Caroline)

It was wonderful to be back in England seeing friends and family. We visited, Dorset, Devon, Bristol and of course Essex where we left Mickey the cat. Although travelling around for nearly 4 weeks, I didn’t manage to catch up with everyone – it’s impossible. But we’re hoping to be back again in early 2016.

The Edge of the Cliff in Dorset - The Jurassic Coast

The Edge of the Cliff in Dorset – The Jurassic Coast

The Man enjoying the Coastal Path

The Man enjoying the Coastal Path

We drove all over dorset and couldn’t believe how many public footpaths there were.  In Italy you are free to roam almost anywhere but I think the walks in Devon, Dorset and probably most of the West Country, might take a lot of beating.

Dorset Pigs seen on our walk along a public footpath

Dorset Pigs seen on our walk along a public footpath

Of the small towns we visited Beaminster (pronounced Bemster) was one of our favourites – and I discovered my cousin lives there so we met up with him and his wife for lunch in Bridport, a lovely Dorset town full of bookshops, antique shops, craft shops and tea shops!

The Square in Beaminster

The Square in Beaminster

Some of the other things we did in England…

  1. Went to the cinema to see live screening of Giselle by the Bolshoi.
  2. Ate pub lunches.
  3. Walked miles down public footpaths.
  4. Went to a two-book launch in Exeter,  Sophie Duffy‘s Bright Stars and Cathie Hartigan’s  Secret of the Song. Have read Sophie’s and can highly recommend it-great read. Have only just started on Cathie’s so will let you know how it goes – it’s a good beginning anyway!
  5. Went to London and saw Sarah Mayhew and Sadie Hasler (Old Trunk Theatre Co) in their production ‘Pramkicker’ – fantastic! Superb script and brilliant acting from two very talented actors.
  6. Met my brother and his wife  for dinner in London – we’re managing it almost yearly now!
  7. Also met up with my sister in Thames Ditton…she had been poorly and in hospital so a timely visit. She’s better now though…at least she’s supporting the bar at the local pub again so she must be okay!

I hope you like this small collections of photographs from our visit. Whilst in England I celebrated my 65th birthday with family and friends, naturally my lovely granddaughter  (all the way from New York!) had to blow out the candles on my cup cakes. (Why didn’t anyone tell me I had a silly tuft of hair sticking up on the top of my head?)

Blowing out the candles

Blowing out the candles

On a more poignant note, our family came together from around the world and one morning we scattered the ashes of my lovely son Tosh who died in 2011 in a tragic accident. Now there is somewhere for his extended family and his friends to pay their respects if they wish. A beautiful plaque in the garden of remembrance two, in Arnos Grove Cemetery, Bristol. I’m looking forward to visiting it often.

Tosh Plaque

It’s olive picking time again in Italy so plenty to get on with now we’re back and…the sun is shining! Yeah!