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 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 4…Getting Involved with the Story…

radio

BBC Radio 4 ‘The Archers…’

 

What makes us become so involved with a story? I’m thinking here of the recent events in The Archers between Helen and Rob Titchener. Even if you don’t listen to the programme on BBC Radio 4, there has been much talk on the Internet about Rob’s ‘coercive control’ behaviour, Helen’s stabbing of him and subsequent trial by jury which found her not guilty of Attempted Murder or Wounding with Intent. I got to the point earlier in 2016 when I had to stop listening because I became so emotionally involved with the storyline and began to hate Rob so much (I’m not really a hating sort of person) and wanted Helen to speak up for herself even though I understood why she wouldn’t. I worried about her son Henry and baby Jack.  I couldn’t bear to listen to the lies Rob told and just desperately wanted someone to remove him from storyline and I didn’t care how they did it. He could have been run over by a slow moving rubbish truck or cornered in a field by a flock of maggot ridden sheep and trampled to death. I’ve always maintained that whatever the circumstances, I could never bring myself to kill anyone but…Rob must have stirred something deep in my psyche…

If this had been a novel, what would I have done? Stopped reading? Turned to the back of the book to see the ending or skipped a few pages so that I could see how the story might be trending? What I did with The Archers was to read the twitter feed and check the the full synopsis on the BBC website. All this before I dared listen to any of the episodes, and, if I thought it was going to be too horrible then I would give that one a miss.

As a writer, I do not have the same fear for my characters even though I become inextricably involved in their lives and I care about them. I get excited about what they might get up to. I don’t mind getting them into awkward situations, killing them off, having them lie, becoming murderers and all number of other horrible things. I know where they’re going and I know their motives and I can control them – to a certain extent. But, have I got the knack to move my readers to the extent that I have been moved by The Archers? Is it the acting, the script or the storyline that are pulling me apart?

I do know people who can watch/read/listen to pretty much anything fictional that’s scary/disturbing/ghastly etc., and not be concerned. ‘It’s only a story, what’s your problem?’ they say as I hide behind a cushion, run out to the bathroom at a crucial moment or distract my mind by checking my emails on my phone or making a cup of tea.

scarytv

What are you like? Do you become drawn into a story to the point of screaming at the book/screen/radio, throwing the book/TV/Radio, in total frustration even though you KNOW it’s just a story and that the people aren’t real? That’s the bit that worries me about The Archers. I know it’s all fiction but I can’t help worrying about Helen and getting exasperated with characters who can’t see any wrong in Rob and worst of all I want Rob DEAD and he’s not even properly alive! I wonder how much hate mail he has received? I’ve only written a couple of letters…

letter-writing-clipart-etc-0nhutv-clipart

Weather…

Out with the dog this morning...

Out with the dog this morning…

Whether the weather be fine Or whether the weather be not, Whether the weather be cold Or whether the weather be hot, We’ll weather the weather Whatever the weather, Whether we like it or not

Anon.

It’s been a long winter this year in Italy, even though we managed to escape for a couple of weeks to Thailand in December where the sun shone and the temperature was warm on most days.

The sun shining on me in Thailand...

The sun shining on me in Thailand…

Last week in Le Marche at the end of March the sky was blue and I thought the winter had ended. It’s now April and today is Easter Sunday…and…it’s pouring with rain, misty and cold…at least 10 degrees colder than last week.

Blossom and blue sky, March 2015 Italy

Blossom and blue sky, March 2015 Italy

I know it is widely said that the English are obsessed with the weather but the fact is the weather determines your mood – well I think it does. So during the winter or bad weather you have to work hard to make yourself feel happy. That’s what we’re doing today. I’ve been out with the dog, she got wet and so did I but the pleasure in that is coming back home, drying off, having a hot drink and being glad you are lucky enough to have a lovely home. I am very aware that there are many people in this world who are not as lucky as me so complaining about the weather is very petty.   You can’t change it so go with it… Now the lunch is cooking (slow braised lamb in red wine), the fire is lit and it’s time to relax, read, write, play cards and enjoy our one chocolate Easter egg – The Man and I are sharing; sharing is caring. The forecast for next week is changeable, so my mood will be too. Friday’s looking good! News on the writing front is that I was short listed in the Fish Publishing Memoir Competition – down to 90 out of an original 780. A boost to my confidence for sure. I’ve written lots of ‘bits’ of my memoir, the test now is to find a common link, join it all together and make a book of it. The novel is coming along. That’s what I plan to do this afternoon, at least 3,000 words…after lunch and chocolate of course… Happy April everyone, wherever you are and whatever the weather… PS I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and there it was still extremely cold..it even snowed! SnowNYC

Creating, Cooking and a little Confession…

This morning I was determined to get on with writing. I’m part way through two online courses and I need to GET ON with both of them. One is memoir writing which I’m really enjoying but it tends fill me with nostalgia so I have to be in the mood.

The other course is for Creative Writing and the module I’m working on right now involves writing the synopsis for a novel and character studies for four of the main characters in the book, ‘piece of cake’ I hear you say well…I’ve got about as far as the title.

writing

I was also hoping to have been at Swanwick this week in Derbyshire but circumstances did not allow it. I was sulking this morning and day dreaming about being there and wondering what delights I was missing.

I sat and looked at the blank computer screen for about five minutes and knew I wasn’t going to write a single thing so I decided instead to cook. I made a banana cake and then launched into making my own pasta tagliatelle – the way Roberto demonstrated back in July.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

I gathered all the ingredients together, flour, egg, oil, vino cotto. Took out my pasta board and rolling pin inherited from an American lady a couple of years ago. I don’t know where she got it from but today was its first outing, I hauled from it’s hiding place and put it to use.

 

Flour, egg, oil, vino cotto

Flour, egg, oil, vino cotto

 

I did everything exactly as I remember Roberto showing us. I mixed with my fingers and kneaded with love and emotion. My wrists ached and my mind wandered as boredom struck after only five minutes. I carried on, even though my carpal tunnel pain started up. The mixture was not doing what it was supposed to. It remained more like a cricket ball than a dough ball. Despite that, I thought I would have a go at rolling it out but it was dry and reluctant to stretch or roll out any bigger than a tea plate.

 

 

Rejected Pasta

Reluctantly, I threw it to one side and began again.

Now, here’s where the confession comes in. I made another lot but this time I mixed it in the Kenwood food processor (embarrassing admission) but it worked a treat! I had to roll it out by hand of course, to a paper thin translucent state, and cut it up and that was done without the aid of a machine – except for the rolling pin. This time it was entirely successful!

Perfectly Rolled Out

Perfectly Rolled Out

Looking just Like Roberto's

Looking just Like Roberto’s

 

tagliatelle

I wasn’t sure how long to cook it but I guessed about 5 minutes. I made a sauce of onion, mushroom, pancetta and wine with chilli and a small amount of cream added at the end of cooking. The verdict? Scrumptious.

Finished Dish served with Salad

Finished Dish served with Salad

It was easy to make the pasta when I used the machine and why put myself through the pain when the end result was so much better?

GBTasing

The Man was thoroughly approving and has requested that more should be made tomorrow!