Sunday, 31 August 2014

Poem of the day - Ode to Autumn

This is the last day of August and although the cigale still sing loudly the sun has lost its fierce heat. The sunsets are hazy and mellow. The trees are getting ready to change into their Autumn finery. Summer fruits are being made into jam or preserves to brighten up the winter months.Grapes are being harvested, liqueurs are being made with apricots and raspberries, plums and elderberries. Blackberry bushes are never far away and everyone can join in the fun of picking them and then making something special . As tomorrow is the first of September and Autumn is round the corner here is a beautiful poem by John Keats (1796 - 1821) 

Ode to Autumn

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom- friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel, to set budding more
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er brimm'd their clammy cells.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Poem for the day- wedding celebrations

My poem for the day is a verse from The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(1807 - 1882). It is a tribute to two couples I know who are having their marriage blessed today.

She had sent through all the village
Messengers with wands of willow,
As a sign of invitation,
As a token of the feasting;
And the wedding-guests  assembled,
Clad in all their richest raiment,
Robes of fur and belts of wampum,
Splendid with their paint and plumage,
Beautiful with beads and tassels..

He was dressed in shirt of doeskin,
White and soft and fringed with ermine,
All inwrought with beads of wampum,..


Going Home - Tornando a casa - part five

Vladimir was the first one to leave the service station on Sunday evening. All the holiday traffic had cleared and he was at the Serbian border in good time. As soon as he had parked he caught sight of Salvatore's stocky figure,he was talking on the phone, wildly gesticulating and trying to placate the high pitched female tirade that was coming from the earpiece. Vladimir punched him lightly on the arm and with a stream of Ti amo , fidati di me, Salvatore put the phone away. 'Le donne, le donne,' he shook his head and opened his arms. 'Come to my cab Vladi and I 'll give you the best Sicilian food in the world.'
As the two men feasted on salami, olives,sausage, Arancini, cannoli, and almond pastries, Salvatore explained his mission. He was on his way to a new hotel on the Black sea in Bulgaria with a lorry load of terracotta vases from Tuscany. The hotel needed local staff and he wondered if Vladimir would be interested. 'You know Vladi you've got a gift for communication, you can get by in Italian, English,German, you'd be great and I know how much you miss your kids.What do you think?'
Vladimir had been holding his breath, entranced by a vision of waking up beside Inga every day, teaching Aline to ride her bike and watching little Viktor take his first steps. 'Salvo thanks, I could definitely give it a try.'
They agreed to set off together after their sleep. Salvatore jumped out,then after a few minutes rapped on the window'Vladi your tarpaulin's loose.better check it.'
Vladimir walked to the back of his lorry and lifted the flaps, he caught his breath as he saw a pair of frightened eyes and the handbag that he'd bought at the autogrill. 
 He knelt down and smiled reassuringly. 'Hello there, it's ok , where do you think you're going.'
Encouraged by his tone, the girl slowly sat up.In Bulgarian she told him that she'd seen the name of the town on his lorry and hoped she'd be able to get there without him noticing. Vladimir silently handed her one of Salvatore's almond pastries and listened to her story . It was one he had heard many times . 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Going Home - Tornando a casa - part four

Vladimir walked all round his lorry checking the tarpaulin and tightening the ropes then jumped up into his cab. He drew the curtains and took a swig from the vodka bottle he kept under his seat.There 'd be time for the alcohol to be out of his blood stream by Sunday evening and he knew it would help him sleep better. He thought he heard something fall in the back of his lorry and was about to investigate when his phone rang .It must have fallen out of his pocket before he went in the autogrill. He scrabbled around on the floor till he found it then pressed answer. It was Salvatore his Sicilian friend. It was much harder for
Vladimir to understand Salvatore on the phone without the aid of his incredibly expressive Italian gestures. He picked up the key words, hotel, terracotta vasi, Lunedi sera, Serbian border, mare nero.Salvatore wanted to know if they could meet there and then go on to the Black sea area together. Vladimir did some quick calculations. 'Si! Si ! Da, da  , A lunedi Salvo!' Vladimir  then saw he had six missed calls from Inga and two from his mother. He rang his mother first and was greeted as always with a torrent of recommendations. 'Make sure you get enough sleep, eat properly, never drive for more than eight hours, we all miss you. Then almost as an after thought she told him that Vassili had found a little bicycle for his daughter Aline, he'd  painted it bright pink and she rode round the yard blowing him kisses and ringing the little bell he had attached to it. Vladimir thre the phone onto the passenger seat. He had another swig of vodka and rubbed his eyes, then he rang Inga. She sounded angry,'Where  have you been? Why didn't you answer ? Is there anyone else there ?' Vladimir was taken aback . She was always complaining that he asked too many questions. He held the phone away from his ear until her shrieking stopped then told her he would be home on Tuesday and  had something for her. She giggled then and sounded more like his Inga.
Vladimir tried to sleep then  thinking of his mother's advice but woke from a dream of Aline looking at him as though he was a stranger and Inga turning away from him .

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Knock Knock, who's there?

One of the first jokes I heard told at school was a Knock knock joke.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Amos who?
A mosquito.

Oh how we laughed at that joke and it was our first awareness of the power of words to cause laughter. Everybody has their favourite Knock Knock joke and while writing my post about London I remembered one of mine.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
M:A:B is a big horse
M:A:B is a big horse who?
M:A:B is a big horse I'm a Londoner, (Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner)

These jokes will be coming thick and fast now, because once you start you can't stop

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Sam and Janet evening
Sam and Janet evening who?
Sam and Janet evening, you will find a stranger, go to him....
Some enchanted evening ......

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Little old lady
Little old lady who?
I didn't know you could yodel.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Eileen Dover
Eileen Dover who?
Eileen Dover and fell in ( I leaned over and fell in).

Probably what makes us laugh at these jokes is they are really silly ....

Getting ready for the first day of school,il primo giorno di scuola

Written in the Album of a Child, William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)

Small service is true service while it lasts
Of friends, however humble, scorn not one:
The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dew-drop from the sun.

In Italy children start proper school in September of the year they are six. In Britain they start school in September but their fifth birthday has to fall between September and the following August. So if your birthday is in December you will be the youngest in your class in Italy but among the older ones in Britain. In Italy now, all the children born in 2008 will be getting ready to start school in September. It is a great event, a huge landmark in their lives and of their families. They will already have been at Scuola Materna  for three years and so used to being away from home during the day, but starting proper school, the elementary or Primary school is a sign that they are now children, not babies or toddlers any more and it brings a lump to your throat.
Today I met a little six year old girl with a friend . She told  me in great detail about her new school bag and her pencil case that have been chosen and bought and are now waiting to be used. She had chosen Minnie Mouse and Daisy duck, world wide children's favourites, designed over fifty years ago and still going strong. This little girl is hoping her best friend will be in her class but will have to wait and see.
Wordsworth's stanza above  seems appropriate thinking of children starting school and making new friends on their first step towards an education. Six is a wonderful age and here is another rhyme from A.A. Milne the author of Winnie-the-Pooh about being six.From the book Now we are Six.

When I was one
I was just begun,
When I was two
I was nearly new,
When I was three
I was hardly me,
When I was four
I was not much more,
When I was five
I was just alive,
But now I'm six
I'm as clever as clever
So I think I'll be six
For ever and ever.

All best wishes to all the children starting school, everywhere .


.......or not!!!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Poem for the day, Upon Westminster Bridge, William Wordsworth

My poem for the day is by William Wordsworth  (1770 - 1850) and is about London. Most of my poems seem to be about the joys of nature and the beauty around us but today I've been thinking a lot about London. Many Italians have made London their home and there are lots of articles and books written by Italians who know it well. It is a city that seems to inspire affection, people become fond of it, fall in love with it, as though it were a person. This poem by Wordsworth was written on the third of September in 1802, so over two hundred years ago. A lot has happened in the world since then but the sentiments expressed in the poem strike a chord now as they did all those years ago.

Upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair;
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This city now doth like a garment wear

The beauty of the morning, silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie:
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock or hill,
Ne'er saw I. never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will,
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep,
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

In 1947 Hubert Gregg wrote the music hall song, Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,in a different style he echoed Wordsworth's poem. There she was battered and bruised and still greatly loved. I always feel London is more of a masculine city while Paris is more feminine, but in the song London is a she.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, Hubert Gregg, 1947

London isn't everybody's cup of tea
Often you hear visitors complain
Noisy, smoky city but it seems to me
There's a magic in the fog and rain.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I love London so
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I think of her
Wherever I go
I get a funny feeling inside of me
While walking up and down
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I love London town.

People take to saying as the years go by
London isn't London anymore
People may be changing but this town and I
We are even closer than before.

Here is the link to a Davy Jones version from 1965, everyone my age will remember him from The Monkees, he was the only British member. The original version was performed by the great Bud Flanagan, so for purists, here is that link too.

Claude Monet went to live in London around 1871 and often painted along the banks of the River Thames

From 1900  to 1903 Monet spends the winter months in London and expresses his love for the city, most of all when it is wrapped in fog.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Synaesthesia - a mingling of the senses

In one of my first posts I mentioned how I have always seen the days of the week as colours. A friend told me that she also sees letters and words as colours. She said that she had seen a programme about it on the television and this capacity to intermingle the senses has a name Synaesthesia. My friend asked me if the letter S had a colour for me. When I answered that I see the letter S as yellow, that clinched it. Apparently one in 2,000 people have this capacity and probably even more without realising it. Colours are often used in language as a means of expression, here are some examples off the top of my head,

To see red   - feel angry
To feel blue - to feel sad
To be green - young or inexperienced
to be in a black mood - to be grumpy and irritable
Someone who is yellow  is a coward
the sound of a bell can be described as silver

You can probably think of lots more examples of mingling the senses with language.
Just for fun I'll try and think of a few sentences,

The silver sound of the sparkling stream
Woke me from my perfumed dream
Of beautiful  pine trees caressed by the sun
Stroking the sky and blowing the clouds
While we lay beneath them, as one

So that is synaesthesia in a nutshell.
Here is a link to one of my favourite songs to cheer you up, ready for Monday, guaranteed.

I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's grey and  Wednesday too,
Thursday I don't care about you
Cos Friday I'm in love ...

Choices and Consequences

This is the time of year when many young people  that finished school in June will be deciding which course to take to continue their education . Some will go to university or college, others into apprenticeships or try to look for a full time job using the skills they have acquired at school. For some young people these choices are easy enough. They have always had a passion for say medicine or psychology, art or law and off they happily go to the next stage of their path towards this goal. Others are not so sure what they want to do or maybe didn't win that sought after place on their desired course. Whatever the situation it is a time to make a choice  and it is an important one.
Life is a series of choices for all of us, some are easy and some are hard. We make choices every day from eating that extra biscuit to making  a phone call to a friend to making important life changing decisions.
One of my greatly loved uncles was useless at making choices. A bit like Winnie- .the -Pooh who when asked if he would like honey or condensed milk with his bread replied "Both". Then, so as not to appear greedy he hurriedly added, "It doesn't matter about the bread." Well my uncle had such a hard time making up his mind that when looking for a place to live he decided to call his chosen home "Ricochet", because he had changed his mind so many times. My dad used to joke that my uncle would have his tombstone engraved with "I should have had the other plot".
My mum and I inherited this trait too, neither of us found it easy to make choices. Of course the trouble is that once you have made a choice you have usually closed the door forever to the alternative. Not always, but mostly you do.  That is why we have to be careful. we can't always keep our options open and we don't want to spend our energy constantly looking over our shoulders and regretting our choices.
There is a poem by Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) which tells us about someone having to make a choice . Robert Frost came to live in Britain in 1912 and the poem was inspired by a friend Edward Thomas who lived in Gloucestershire.  Edward Thomas was so eager to show Robert Frost the beauty of the countryside that he could never decide which way to go and always regretted not having shown his friend something else.I'm sure we can all identify with these feelings. you want someone to see the best of what your home town has to offer and sometimes there isn't enough time to show them everything. In the poem, the grassy path could symbolise anything from a new job , a new relationship or where to go for the day. Here is the poem and a wish for everyone to make the right choices.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same;

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.



The path through the wood

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A poem for the day for a special friend

Here is a verse from William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) Tintern Abbey written in 1888 about Wordsworth's return to the River Wye after five years.  It seems perfect to read at the end of a summers day when you have been thinking of someone far away that needs special affection and thoughts. This  verse seems to unite the beauty of nature and our thoughts.

          And I have felt
A  presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts, a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit , that impels,
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

L';estate sta finendo...

L'estate sta finendo
e un anno se ne va
Sto diventando grande
Lo sai che non mi va
In spiaggia di ombrelloni
Non ce ne sono piu
é il solito ritual
Ma ora manchi tu.......

These are the first few lines of an Italian song from 1983 by Righeira. When my children were young we loved singing all the happy Italian songs . We took our Bimbo Mix records to England and in no time at all their cousins were bopping around to Vamos alla playa, Notte Magico, L'estate sta finendo. There is something melancholy about this song because it is about the end of the summer. The heat of the sun is not so intense and the beach towels no longer dry in ten minutes. The Italian summer is long and hot and you know that even if it is cloudy or raining the sun is never far away. The schools finish at the beginning of June and don't start until the second week in September. It is quite common to go for three months without seeing friends and so at the end of August there will be lots of happy reunions. Our school holidays were only six weeks long but I remember the wonderful feeling of being reunited with my class mates in September. I felt like another person. I had been holiday- me and now was once again school girl-me. It was an exciting time of new shoes and new beginnings.
That feeling stays with us even when we have finished full. time education. We can start thinking about learning something new whether it be salsa dancing or a new language. September is when the courses start in earnest.
Let's linger a while in summer though. It's too soon to say goodbye to sunny days and balmy nights and the new friends we have made.

Summer is ending

The summer is ending
A year is going by
I am growing up
But I don't really want to
The umbrellas on the beach
Have all been put away
It's the usual ritual
But now I miss you....


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Peace, pace, Paix

My poem for the day is by William Cowper (1731 - 1800). He was an English poet who was very popular in his day. He wrote about the beauty of the English countryside. In this verse he mentions peace. He's talking about inner peace here and how much it helps us to see the beauty in nature and all around us. We all know peace is a greatly sought after state, both spiritually and between people. we all know that it is difficult to achieve. It requires discipline, and self-control and persistence. Peace should never be confused with complacency or smugness. I didn't mean to go off on a tangent there, so here is the poem to lighten your day.

When all within is peace,
How nature seems to smile!
Delights that never cease,
The live-long day beguile.

There we are, short but sweet !!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Tirami su to pick you up

Tirami su with a shot of Zabibbo

Tirami su is now one of the most popular Italian desserts. There ard lots of ways of making it. Everyone has their favourite recipe. If you are making it for children you can use fruit juice instead of coffee to moisten the sponge fingers. If you are making it for expectant mothers you can gently cook the egg yolk over a low heat before whisking it with the sugar. You can add chopped strawberries and omit the coffee. One thing is sure though, you must whisk it just to the right density.
Here is my classic version

3 eggs separated
200g mascarpone
100g sugar
24 sponge fingers
A moka for 6 people of Italian coffee or a mug of strong black Instant coffee
1 tbsp of marsala, Zabibbo or Sherry, or rum
Cocoa powder for dusting.

Iput the whites of the eggs in a large dry glass bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until  the mixture stands in peaks.Put aside.
In another bowl whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until creamy and light.Add the liqueur and then fold in the mascarpone with a wooden spoon making sure the mixture stays thick and creamy.
Then gently combine the two mixtures carefully so it doesn't go runny.
Spoon a layer of the cream to cover a glass serving dish or individual dishes or bowls. Dip the sponge fingers in the coffee and lay them on the top. Continue in this way finishing with a layer of cream.
Dust with cocoa powder then cover with cling film and store in the fridge until needed. Well a couple of hours !
This is ideal after a light meal unless you ard in Italy on holiday and then you really should have a Pasticcio di Lasagna first !!
Get the ingredients ready first

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wide open spaces

There are some places that at first glance are flat and uninteresting, but as you get nearer and begin to observe you can feel that the more you look the more you see. You can get that feeling looking at the night sky. First of all you see just darkness, then one star, then a few more until you can see the vast millions. You might see an aeroplane pass through a cloud, and if you are in an area where there is no light pollution you can see the Milky Way. The same feeling you can have looking at the Fens in the east of England. the more you look you will see the birds, the water creatures, the midges , the reeds , the different types of grasses, the variety of colours. The same feeling again in the lagoon around Venice and the Camargue in France. Wide open spaces, fragile land that is at one with the sea, like there is an unspoken agreement that the land can stay there if it behaves itself, if it gives a home to the wide variety of fauna and flora to be found there..

Here is a poem by William Morris that seems to express easily what we might all feel when looking at a landscape we are fond of. I hope you like it.

Speak nought, move not, but listen, the sky is full of gold.
No ripple on the river, no stir in field or fold,
All gleams but nought doth glisten, but the far-off
unseen sea.

Forget days past, heart broken, put all memory by!
No grief on the green hillside, no pity in the sky,
Joy that may not be spoken fills mead and flower and

Monday, 18 August 2014

Consequences, a play in three Acts

Act three, final act

The scene is the Pear Tree Café. 'I'm a Believer ' is playing in the background. The tables are all occupied and the waitress is moving between them getting orders.
Marianne and Ellie are sitting at a table. they look tanned and are dressed in bright summer dresses.
The lights dim and the music fades. the spotlight goes to Marianne and Ellie.
Marianne, 'It's been such a lovely summer this year. Our holiday in Tunisia was fantastic.It's gone so quickly though I can't believe the schools start next week. Ellie, forgive me for saying this but is it true that Steve goes to lapdance clubs? You do know what goes on there don't you?'.

Ellie,' He 's only been once, just to see what it was like. It's harmless fun. Anyway at least he knows now and doesn't want to go again. He said it was a waste of money. Anyway look at poor Lucy.Steve said Tom went hundreds of times and even started dating some of the girls. She just threw him out when she found out.She said she just can't forgive him.

Marianne.'What about Sue? Phil told me that Trevor had a fling with that Barbara that works with him.

Ellie, 'Yeah I know. It's all over now though. Sue told me that she's had to stop breast feeding and is on anti-depressants. I feel so lucky to have my Steve. He's always so open about everything. He couldn't tell a lie to save his face,'

Marianne,' Here they come. Wow! Look at Sue, she looks amazing. '

Lucy and Sue come up to the table they all greet each other with a chorus of 'Look at your tan, wow you look gorgeous'Sue is wearing a very short skirt and low cut top. the waitress comes to take their orders.

Sue, 'I hope you all had a better summer than me. I expect you have all heard about Barbara and  Trevor. I don't want to talk about it.  Suffice to say that I now have enough kinky underwear to  open a shop and he looks after the baby a lot more.'

Lucy, ' Well Sue, I think he's lucky that you stuck with him. I can't forgive Tom',

Sue, 'the thing is girls, I love him and if  I'm honest with myself I had neglected him lately, with the baby.'

Ellie, ' Oh I never ever stopped Steve from having all the fringe benefits.They're bound to stray if they don't get enough attention.'

Marianne, 'Come on you lot, let's talk about something else. I haven't got long. would any of you like to come to my Pilates class'?'

The women break into excited chatter.

The lights turn away from them.

The bouncer from the Night club comes in. He goes up to the waitress and pats her playfully on the bottom.

Waitress, ' Oh there you are at last. I've been hoping you'll come in all morning'.

Bouncer,'Try and keep me away. You're so gorgeous, I love you, you know that. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen'.

Waitress (giggling), Oh go on, with all those beauties you see all the time'.
Bouncer, ' You're the only one that turns me on. It must be love.'
Waitress,' I love you too.'

The waitress and the bouncer embrace.

Lights fade.

Consequences, a play in three Acts

Act Two

The scene is outside a Night Club. There is a Bouncer standing at the door. Striptease and lap dance neon signs are flashing and sultry music can be heard .Steve and Tom are outside near the Bouncer. Steve is on the phone. Tom is looking at the pictures of the girls on the wall.

Steve, 'Oh come on Trevor, we're waiting for you!. You loved it last time, you know you did. You did!
Look Sue will never know. It's the perfect way to have a bit of fun without getting found out.'

Steve stops talking and listens to what Trevor is saying on the other end.

Steve, 'What'!!??' With Barbara?. Oh you must be mad. Poor Sue, she'll go mad. What about the baby?!!'
Well mate, I'm lost for words. Anyway we've got to go in. Can't hang about. see ya'.

Tom,' What did he say? is he coming?'

Steve, 'Well he's surprised me. He's only gone and got himself a lover, stupid git'.

Tom, 'Maybe it's not such a good idea to go in, Steve. I don't think Lucy would be very happy'.

Steve, 'She'll never know, mate, those girls are hardly going to go and tell her, and I won't, come on.'

Tom, 'You know, I tried to persuade Phil to come but he's too busy with that Katerina from the clinic.
Steve, 'I bet he is, She'd keep me busy too I can tell you. Come on let's go in There's a special offer tonight. Two private dances and then you get one free, perks of the Recession, eh mate?'.

Steve and Tom go up to the Bouncer and pay their entrance fee and disappear into the Night Club.

Consequences, a play in three Acts.

Consequences, a play in three Acts


Lucy, a well-groomed 40 year old
Tom, her husband, a slightly paunchy short man with closely cropped grey hair.

Sue, an attractive thirty year old, earth mother type, with a small baby
Trevor, her husband, an older man, heavy set , very smartly dressed

Marianne, a forty-five year old, very attractive, slim and sporty
Phil, her husband, sporty and very handsome

Ellie, a fresh-faced thirty ish plump woman,
Steve, her older husband, late fifties,

A waitress
A Night club bouncer

Act One,

scene-  The Pear Tree, coffee bar, busy and lively. Music is playing Budapest, by George  Ezra.. There is the sound of laughter and chattering. A waitress is moving among the tables taking orders.
The scene freezes and the light shines on two women, Lucy and Sue, seated at a table. with a pram next to them.

Lucy. ' This will be our last coffee morning for a month or so. The schools have finished and now we are all off on holiday. We're leaving  on Saturday. I've booked a Brazilian for this afternoon. Would you like to come?

Sue, ( raising her long skirt a few inches and sticking out a leg)
?Oh I haven't shaved for ages. there's a  Brazilian forest growing here'.

Lucy, (recoiling), Ugh! What does your Trevor say about that? My Tom wouldn't touch me if I wasn't immaculate',

Sue:' Oh Trevor wouldn't even notice. He's not at all highly sexed and neither am I, and since the baby's arrived I have to sleep with her because he needs his sleep. If Trevor doesn't get his full eight hours he's like a bear with a sore head.',

Sue pulls her chair closer to Lucy's and speaks in a confidential whisper.
'Hey Lucy, keep this to yourself but Marianne's got a lover.'

Lucy, 'No!!! I don't believe you. She's so lucky to have Phil. He really has got everything. Money, looks, an amazing body...'

Sue, ? Well seems like in the bedroom department he wasn't all that...Anyway she just got swept off her feet. She told me that she has never known a passion like it before. She said that at her age you can't let a chance like that go.'.

Lucy, 'Well I suppose my Dad always told me that you regret what you don't do more than what you do. But does Phil know' He must be heart-broken.'

Sue,' Yes he does. She told him. He's now having an affair with that Polish nurse from the surgery. You know, the one that does the baby's weight?. 'Don't say anything will you? Oh look here she comes now, and Ellie too.'

Lucy,' Oh no, did I tell you? Ellie's husband Steve gave me the come-on the other day. He must be going through his mid-life crisis..'

Sue, ' He's always been like that. My Trevor knows Steve from school. That's why he's already had two wives.'

Sue and Lucy stand up and greet Marianne and Ellie. they all exclaim with pleasure at seeing each other ,then they sit down and the waitress comes to take their order.

Marianne, ' It's lovely to see you all. I'm off on holiday tomorrow for two weeks to Tunisia, booked a last-minute dotcom thing'.

Lucy,' Who with? I thought Phil was afraid of flying?'

Marianne' Yes he is, so I' m taking my mum and youngest daughter, that should keep me out of muschief'

Lucy and Sue giggle.

Ellie, 'Oh you are lucky. I could never leave Steve alone for two weeks. He can't even boil an egg.'

The waitress brings their coffees.

Sue, 'Look everyone, this is on me. I'm off to baby yoga.'

Lucy, 'Thanks Sue, have a great summer everyone, see you all in September.. This is definitely the time of year when I am really glad that I'm a teacher.'

There is a chorus of, lucky you, take care and have fun.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Going Home -Tornando a casa - Part Three

The Cafè was almost empty. There was just a couple sitting near the window so they could watch the sunset. The man was shaking sugar into his companion's coffee and giving it a stir while she smiled at him and  held his knee.Vladimir felt his heart ache. He wished it was him and Inga. He would love to take her on a journey and show her all the places that he'd been to. He walked up to the till and ordered a coffee. It felt strange being here on his own without the comradie of the other drivers. He sat near the couple and relaxed as the strong hot liquid hit his throat. The young woman had a bag with the name of a city that he had driven past many times. He had never stopped there, to him it was just a name on a signpost. He could hear them discussing a party they were planning. His Italian was good enough to capture the words, Festa, benvenuto a casa, felicissimi. He imagined his family planning the same for him. Then he remembered Vassili and the way he looked at Inga now.He needed to go home. He needed to see her more than ever. If he set off the moment the lorry ban was lifted he could be home by Monday night. Vladimir walked through the shopping area . He chose some sweets for his little daughter and a model car for his son. Then he saw a handbag like the young woman's . He took his gifts to the till and on an impulse added a second bag.
Vladimir opened his cab door and smelt the perfume again and saw a flash of long hair and a short skirt. He solemnly reached towards her, the bag in his outstretched hand. Her questioning look soon turned to a  warm delighted smile that made his heart swell. Oh please let Inga greet him so!.
The view from the Beausoleil service station looking towards Monte Carlo

Going Home - Tornando a casa - Part two

The outward journey was getting more difficult for Vladimir. He found it hard to resist the pleading eyes and desperate looks from the people who saw his lorry as a bridge to freedom. This time he had nearly got caught  The customs' officials at Calais had taken his number plate and he knew that next time they wouldn't play so dumb. They would be searching and shining their torches all over the place .He didn't like to think of what his life would be like without this job The money he took home meant that his family were able to stay together in the small town where he and Inga had grown up. His grandmothers had both told him to keep his family together. They told him it was the most important thing he could do for them. When his mother's mother, Lucica, was a young girl, just fifteen she had been forced to marry his grandfather Tomas. Many times she had tried to run away to go back home, but in the end she had been made to accept her destiny. Vladimir's grandmother was one of the lucky ones. Tomas was a hardworking and loyal husband, he did all he could to make his grandmother happy. His other grandmother had  had an even more difficult challenge.. When Vladimir's father was born restrictions were placed on the people and she was never allowed back to see her family. She cried so many tears and her heart broke knowing she would never see her little brothers or her parents again. As the years went by her sadness increased and even now tears would fall at the mere mention of her long lost relatives..Being a long-distance lorry driver made him feel free.While he was on the road he felt safe. His cab was like a personal universe where no harm could come to him. He kept his passport and all his papers in a pocket that Inga had made specially. He knew how important they were.
On his outward bound  journey, he  was a man, taking a lorry load of goods many miles and then bringing another lorry load of goods back. But on his way home he was a hero, a provider and a protector. He had made a lot of friends among his fellow travellers. Many took the same routes and would try to share the same overnight stops. He was always happy to see Salvatore, a Sicilian driver who would entertain everybody with stories about his family and Sicilian songs. This was his first time at the Aire du Beausoleil and he didn't recognise any of the other lorries. Vladimir walked towards the bright lights of the Cafè, pushed open the door and breathed in the welcoming smell of strong coffee.
The view from Beausoleil service station on the motorway

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Going Home - Tornando a casa - Part one

The lorry park was already full when Vladimir arrived. He had forgotten that tomorrow was a holiday for the Italians and now the lorries would have to wait until Sunday evening to set off again.
Vladimir skillfully eased his lorry into a space between the picnic tables and an oleander bush. He jumped out of his cab and felt intense relief as he stretched his body into an upright position . The constant stream of tourists going home had ceased and as dusk fell the few remaining lorry drivers had the service station to themselves.
A waft of cloying scent drifted past and from the corner of his eye he glimpsed a female form hovering expectantly. Many times he had been grateful for the comfort they gave, the warm presence of another human being, passing by like him and wanting the illusion of  anothers care.
On the journey home though he was a husband, a father and a son. He was going  to a place where he would be welcomed with open arms. Everyone would rejoice at his return and the whole village would be invited to share the Roast pig . The women would be making vast quantities of potato salad and the children would be helping to taste the rich creamy desserts.  He thought of his wife Inga. Had he imagined that her face hadn't lit up quite so much with the joy of seeing him last time? Had he imagined that his cousin Vasili had  touched her on the arm a bit too often? He shook himself. He would go into the autogrill and buy  her a special gift, just like the tourists who wandered round looking for last minute souvenirs.

The view from the Beausoleil service station looking towards Cap ferrat

Listening to the sea

The beach at Jesolo in Italy is covered in shells

The moon shining on the Mediterranean sea
My poem for the day is about the pleasure to be had listening to the sea. The sound of the sea is so calming and soothing that you often find it on those cds that are meant to help you relax. I'm sure most of us have at some time held a shell to our ears convinced that the swooshing sound is the sea. My mum of course made this a magical and solemn experience. We would hold shells to pur ears and hear the sound the sea makes. 'That is the sea' she would say. 'The shell carries it with her.' Oh it was wonderful to believe we could hear the sea that was so many miles away, just standing in our back garden and holding the shell to our ear. Here's what William Wordsworth (1770-1850) had to say about it.

I have seen
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convulutions of a smooth-lipped shell:
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy, for from within were heard
Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with its native sea.
Even such a shell the universe itself
Is to the ear of faith.

Friday, 15 August 2014

15Août 1944

Plage 44 as it is today
In France this year they are commemorating the hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War and the seventy years of the Liberation. In June it was the Normandy landings. On the fifteenth of August 1944 the American forces landed on the shores of the South of France and got a very warm welcome. In an area that has since become famous for Brigitte Bardot, bikinis , watersports and beautiful beaches the image of a whole load of soldiers arriving  on the beach seems rather incongruous. But no- one has forgotten those brave men and how much they meant to the land of Egalité, Fraternité, Liberté. Tomorrow they will be remembered especially along with the French people who were at their side. The American flag is flying in all the little villages. There is a lovely beach bar opposite St.Tropez which is called Plage 44. There are memorials along the beautiful coastline. There are old photographs on display in the art galleries. While we are on our summer holidays these old memories can serve to remind us that civilization and freedom are very precious and also fragile.

Map showing where the troops landed and where the memorials are

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Anyone for Boules ?

A game of Boules can last a long time 

Everyone seems to like playing Boules  in France. Every place in every town or village has a crowd of people seriously discussing their game of Boules. It is also known as pétanque.It's a great game . It can be played by anyone with various degrees of skill. Hardened serious players take their time, study the terraine and the position of their opponents boules and try and knock the other boules out of the way. The rules are fairly simple. The person who starts play throws a small wooden ball and then throws one of their boules to get as near as possible to the small wooden ball.The next player tries to get theirs even nearer . Whoever is furthest from the small ball carries on throwing their boules until they are nearest. A piece of string is used to check who is nearest if there is any doubt. You add up the number of boules that are nearest . It does not sound so simple any more , but it is a lovely sociable game. If you don't feel like playing then you can stand around and watch and cheer on the players . The first one to get eleven points wins!
Just need two glasses of Rosè

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Caramelle, Bonbons, sweets

The Italian word for sweets is caramelle. I think it's such a pretty word it could be a girl's name . Caramella . In French it is Bonbon and I seem to remember it being Fru fru in Serbo Croat. They are all nice words. Today I learnt the French word for marshmallows, speculos . So now Know what to expect if it is on an ice cream menu. So here are a few photos to make you feel sort of sweet !

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Cigale cigale cigale

Le Cigale sing loud and clear in an Italian garden
The cigale are singing constantly during the day. Listening to them reminds me of when I told my son the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper. All Summer long the grasshopper or cigale sings and dances. The ant instead spends all the time working hard to put away food for the winter. Of course when the cold weather arrives the grasshopper stops singing and hasn't got anything to eat. The ant tells him he should have worked in the summer instead of wasting all his time singing and dancing. My son who was only small at the time thought the ant should share his food, it was the obvious thing to do. I really liked him saying that.
My poem for the day is by John Keats (1796 - 1821) who probably wrote this lovely poem while thinking of the happy sound the cigale make in Italy.

The poetry of the earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
That is the grasshopper's  -  he takes the lead
In summer luxury, - he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.

In 1981 there was an Italian variety programme called Fantastico, and Heather Parisi sang the title song.... Cigale, here is the link if anyone feels like some cheerful nostalgia

Monday, 11 August 2014

Poem for the day by the sea

Here is my poem for the day . It is suitable for summer as it talks about the sea . Hurrican Bertha has just caused havoc roaring across the Atlantic ocean from the States. The sea and the oceans have many moods. The sea can be calm and then whipped up into a foaming frenzy making us wary and keeping our distance. This poem is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the American Fireside poet. He must have gazed upon the majestic rise and swell of the Atlantic ocean as it crashed upon or carressed
The New England coastline.

The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain's side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.

Under the moonlight, au clair de la lune

This week the moon is much closer to the earth than usual. It always looks particularly magical when it is full and now even more so. One of the things I love about the moon , apartfrom it's silver light , is that everyone in the whole world can see it. My mum and I loved to be talking on the phone together while we were both looking at the moon.'Isn't it lovely!?' We would say to each other. The hundreds of miles that separated us would shrivel to nothing while sharing the same beautiful sight. On summer evenings under a full moon people will congregate to sit on the sand and play guitars or just talk and look at the silver path that the moon traces on the sea. Like the end of a rainbow you can never
Reach the silver path . If you walk towards it , it moves further away. There will be many stunning photos of the moon taken this week. Here are mine:)

Au clair de la lune
Mon ami Pierrot
Donne moi ta plume
Pour ecrir un môt
Ma chandelle est morte
Je n'ai plus de feu
Donne moi ta plume
Pour l' amour de Dieu

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Fête du Raisin, Sagra del uva

Today was an unexpected treat . Quite by chance we came upon a Fête du Raisin. The whole village was out in force. Groups of people dressed in traditional Provencal costumes were clog dancing, marching along playing all sorts of instruments, firing rifles into the air and startling the pigeons. The main dance involved old branches from the vines that were decorated with ribbons and then burnt while the local girls danced round them in a circle. The mayor gave a talk about the deep significance of the Fête du Raisin. He said the grapes represent us. We are like the grapes growing on the vine. 
All around the village there were stalls selling the local wine. You had to buy a wine glass and then you could go round with your glass and taste whichever wine you wished. We met some people we know and soon we were all chinking our glasses and saying Santé. What a wonderful Sunday morning, sunshine, singing and dancing and the brass band playing.