Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Entering an enchanted land in Italy, Gargano

As you  travel along the Adriatic coast in Italy towards Puglia you crane your neck to take in every detail of the fascinating landscape.  The Adriatic sea turns turquoise and emerald green and is studded with shades of deep blue from the shadows of the little white clouds dancing along above it.
 Mediterranean pine trees and big fat Cactus plants jostle together along the road, fields of gold that have yielded their harvest stretch into the distance and join smaller fields of artichokes and potatoes. All the while on the horizon is the sea giving a sense of freedom and calm to the land that is Puglia.
As you turn off the motorway and enter the spur of Italy's boot you feel a sense of entering a magic kingdom.
This is Gargano, one of Italy's hidden gems, a land suspended in time, where the past and the present mingle constantly trying to decide who is in charge.
The road winds round Gargano like a belt trying to contain the vast expanse of the Umbra Forest and give definition to the beautiful coastline. The forest is a National Park and home to many creatures including badgers, woodpeckers, deer, wild boar, Sparrow hawks.

The coastline is so beautiful that you will want to find a layby and stop to admire the sandy coves and stunning rock formations, the turquoise waters of the bays and the  clusters of  white flat topped houses clinging to the hill sides.
A dog might appear through a gap in a hedge and look at your car letting you know you must wait for a flock of sheep to pass across the road and up the hill for the night. A cow might be walking along the side of the road with her calf tucked underneath trying to keep up and merrily feeding on its' mother's milk.
All the while you will be aware of olive groves stretching onwards to the sea, silver in the moonlight and emerald in the day. Many of the beautiful olive trees have trunks that tell the story of centuries and the hands that have touched them, the lovers that have kissed there.

An ideal place to stay to explore this wild yet friendly region is B&B Villa Simone.
It only opened this Summer and embodies all that is good about Gargano and Puglia.
Family run and friendly. A feeling of home but of freedom of the past and of the future. White and clean and simple. A stunning view of the olive groves and the sparkling sea. A calm oasis of a garden with a swimming pool to relax and meditate.  Gargano will induce a sense of calm and peace and family values. There is a slower pace of life here where you can breathe deeply, think clearly, fill your senses with wonder, feel the healing power of nature  on your mind, body and soul and savour the company of family and friends.

Enzo from Villa Simone can arrange excursions and recommend wonderful places to eat.
One of these is Medioevo, a restaurant in Monte Sant'Angelo.
Once you can tear yourself away from the incredible breath taking view from Monte Sant' Angelo you can explore the little streets and look for the Restaurant Medioevo.
The proprietor Pasquale, has the charm of the men of the south of Italy. He has been running his restaurant for twenty two years and will make it clear he only wants to serve you the best. He is proud of his restaurant, his home, his lovely wife and young family. He is convinced that the stability of the world lies in happy families.
The menu has all the traditional Pugliese dishes including orecchiette, Pancotto, lamb, grilled Caciotto cheese and fried courgette flowers. Everything about this restaurant is wonderful, the food is delicious and the atmosphere friendly and warm. Like Enzo and his father from the Villa Simone, Pasquale loves Gargano and treats visitors like old friends, taking time to share his passion for his cooking, his home and his family.

The drive back down from Monte Sant' Angelo takes you through stunning scenery, steep sided hills, olive groves and vineyards. In front of you the coast of southern Italy sweeps round  across the bay to Bari. The light is clear and the colours are beautiful shades of green and silver, blue and turquoise. The sunset is all warm pinks and oranges, then the moon appears and the sky turns dark blue. Lights appear on the sea and all along the coast like a golden chain.



The swimming pool at Villa Simone has lovely views across to the sea

A Saracen tower near Peschici

Sunshine and showers in Vieste

The beach at Mattinata

Engraved on the steps of Pasquale's restaurant you will find, a key for hospitality and a pair of scissors to ward off malicious gossip.

One of the many breath taking views from Monte Sant'Angelo


Monday, 21 September 2015

Love at First Sight

The Còte d'azur

The first time that I saw you
I couldn't believe my eyes
A magic giant paintbrush
Had swept across the skies
Drops of silver sparkles
And shiny golden rays
Of sunshine and of moonshine
Danced upon your waves.

The sky above a gentle glance
Bestowed upon your charms
Spotlights on the sail boats
Finding solace in your arms,
The turquoise and the indigo
Curled around the shore
Caressing every sandy beach
Cliffs and coves galore.

Flip flops on my English feet
I trip and graze my knees
Then shuffle down and wet my toes
My hair lifts in the breeze,
I close my eyes to hear the sound
Of your song so sweet and pure
It stirs my soul and fills my heart
The sea of the Còte d'Azur.

By Angie B Poems from when I was ten

Turquoise sea and soft sand

Plumbago and Bougainvillea flourish in the Mediterranean sun

Sunset at Juan Les pins

Lights come on at twilight and add magic to the scene

Wonderful words

In a recent poll about favourite words the number one word was 'mother'. Who can argue with that? 'Mother' is the one who loves you unconditionally from the moment you make your appearance in the world, without you doing anything at all. Most babies' first word is mamma, except mine whose first word was 'bang' and then their father's name.
Apart from 'mother' I have a whole list of words that cheer me up and give me strength, here they are:-

My poem for the day is by Mary Russell Mitford and seems just right for these end of summer days.

Within my little garden is a flower,
A tuft of flowers most like a sheaf of corn,
The lilac-blossomed daisy that is born
At Michaelmas, wrought by the gentle power
Of this sweet autumn into one bright shower
Of bloomy beauty. Spring hath nought more fair.
Four sister butterflies inhabit there,
Gay gentle creatures! Round that odorous bower
They weave their dance of joy the lifelong day,
Seeming to bless the sunshine; and at night
Fold their enamelled wings as if to pray.
Home-loving pretty ones! would that I might
For richer gifts as cheerful tribute pay,
So meet the rising dawn, so hail the parting ray.

Plumbago, a beautiful blue

Autumnal sunset



Friday, 18 September 2015

Expo, aiming to feed the world with balance and harmony

Every five years there is an Expo, which means a country takes it upon itself to attract visitors from all over the world to an exhibition.

 This year it is Milan, Italy and the theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'.
 Now from a country like Italy you immediately think of delicious meals, pasta, pizza and wine, famous for their deliciousness all over the world.
It's not about that though, not really, of course there is a lot of tempting food available and elegant wine displays but the message is another one. It's all about harmony and balance, feeding the world without harming the environment, making sure that nutritious food is available to all, the impact of farming methods, the importance of farming methods through the ages and onward into the future.
The first pavilion we visited was Oman. You walk through looking at a typical Oman kitchen, a typical Oman family meal and ingredients used in Oman cuisine, then you are shown how they fish, harness water, farm, breed animals, grow crops. Their theme was the importance of water, our most precious commodity. In Oman they harness every drop of water they can, every drop from a monsoon is precious.
 So that was my first impression of the Expo, yes food is important but water is even more so.
The Expo is about 1.5kms long and so you have to pace yourself and have a rough idea of what you want to see before you start.
 Some of the Pavilions had long queues, very long queues, especially Germany, Israel, Japan and the Emirates.
The next expo will be in Dubai in 2020 so many people were curious to have a preview.
There wasn't a queue for Oman, but it was very interesting and beautifully presented and  moving. At the end of it you felt very fond of the people that live there.
After visiting Oman we went to Turkey and drank very strong Turkish coffee and ate Turkish Delight. There wasn't a queue there either and it was a calm relaxing oasis with a lovely Ottoman fountain surrounded by comfortable seating.
Turkey's theme was growing food for the future.
Just walking along the central walkway of the Expo is like seeing the whole world as you admire all the fascinating structures of the pavilions, lots of wood for the Estonians, an inviting display of caviar and vodka for Russia and a line up of Russian dolls and bears.
The queue for the host country Italy was far too long for us but we enjoyed walking round the area and admiring the Tree of Life which is lit up with a sound and light display, magic shows and music.
Being Italy pride of place was given to wine production and again being Italy the Wine Pavilion was elegant and sumptuous. Ceilings were painted with replicas of Leonardo da Vinci's vineyards, beautiful displays of wine bottles in different booths to represent each Italian region, wine bottles full of coloured liquids to show the shades of the rich hues, the yellows, the pinks and the reds.

There had been a lot of hype about the British pavilion which is built like a beehive and tells you all about the vital importance of bees to the survival of mankind. You walk through a specially planted meadow full of clover and dandelions and all the things that bees like then you enter the hive and watch films showing bees making honeycomb. There was no queue for the United Kingdom pavilion, it was beautiful designed, easy to follow and understand, quick, essential and to the point. Well worth a visit.

As the sun went down and the new moon appeared in the Botticelli sky the Expo turned on its' magic. People started to look for places to eat, of which there were plenty and for all tastes. Lights came on in the trees, orchestras struck up romantic Italian melodies from a bygone more gentle era, there was clinking of glasses, soft laughter and quiet conversation.

After a lot of dithering because of the ample choice we chose Spaghetti with anchovies and tomatoes from Friuli Venezia Giulia and a piadine from Emilia Romagna. It was all prepared in front of you and absolutely delicious.

 For many of us our family meal is the highlight of the day, a chance to heal the wounds of the day or share the funny moments, raise a smile, have a laugh, comfort and reassure each other. This is the moment to be grateful to all those people who spend their time producing our food, growing crops, breeding life stock, growing fruit
and vegetables and bringing it to our tables.
Every country in the world must surely enjoy and need these moments when they sit down together and share a meal.

The Expo came to life in the evening, with the lights and the pink sky and the moon.
You can go there for the evening for 5 euros.
We moved towards the Padiglione Zero, Pavilion zero, this is where you learn what it's all about.
First of all you enter a library, wooden shelves, stairs and books, this is knowledge, this is what we need to survive, knowledge about the earth, the crops and the seasons, preserving food, avoiding waste and keeping the world a healthy place.
Then there is a film to watch telling you about food through the ages, from pre historic times on, next models of animals and live stock and then the water wheel, the mill wheel and then a model of the agricultural revolution, following food from the country to the city.
Actually I was a bit tired by this time so I might not be totally accurate, but lastly there was a three dimensional film showing the areas of the world that have achieved a perfect balance between food production and the environment. Amazing, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, from grape vines in the lava of Lanzarote, to hazelnuts grown in Italy, cocoa in Ghana and sugar beet in.. somewhere.
So there it was for me, the Expo, the whole world in a day. What we eat, how we produce it and how we cook it and preserve it, something that we are all doing all the time.
There  were so many countries there, many familiar like Germany and France, some I hadn't heard of like Timor Est. It was only much later when I was thinking back on what I'd seen that I couldn't remember seeing Australia or New Zealand.

The colours of wine, from red to yellow

The United Kingdom's beehive

Baci, chocolate kisses from Italy

Statues are never far away in Italy

The colours of wine from yellow to red

The wheel, one of the inventions that started it all

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A Life time of Loving and Learning

For the first day of school here is some wisdom from Winnie the Pooh. When I was small he was only well known in Britain and when we read his books we looked at the enchanting illustrations by Ernest Shepherd and imagined him living in the woods we played in.
Thanks to Walt Disney he is now known all over the world and has spread his wisdom far and wide.
Everyone knows he likes honey, makes up poems and songs and has a gang of various friends, Piglet, Eeyore, rabbit, Tigger, Kanga and Roo and of course Christoher Robin.
Like all soft toys Pooh is greatly loved just by being him, he doesn't have to do anything and that is how it should be.
You don't have to be anyone special to be loved and you don't have to have an amazing brain to learn.
The main reason children go to school is to learn. They learn to listen and gain life time skills, to get along with all the other children and whatever their school thinks is necessary to equip them as far as is possible  to be able to stand on their own two feet, as my dad would have said.

Here's an extract from 'The House at Pooh Corner' that seems very appropriate for the first day of school.

Suddenly Christopher Robin began to tell Pooh about some of the things: People called Kings and Queens and something called Factors, and a place called Europe, and an island in the middle of the sea where no ships came, and how you made a suction pump (if you want to9, and when Knights were Knighted, and what comes from Brazil. And Pooh, his back against one of the sixty-something  trees, and his paws folded in front of him, said 'Oh!' and 'I don't know,' and thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things.

There is a great reward in a lifetime of learning. Even those of you who are no longer at school or college can be learning something every day. Anything that you enjoy and makes you think is good for you. If you find something that makes you concentrate and fun to do then your brain power will increase.
Board games, crossword puzzles,, music, art, acting anything at all, from watching a gardening programme to learning a new recipe or a new language.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

An Apple cake for Autumn

Apple cake is a favourite all year round. you can fool yourself that it's not that bad for you, after all there's fruit in it isn't there? Also eggs and butter and so it must be good for you. Here's a recipe with an early Autumn flavour, you use brown sugar and so it looks sort of autumn.

Angie's Apple Cake

3 eggs separated
250g brown sugar
250g self raising flour
250g softened butter
3- 4 apples, peeled and sliced
juice of one lemon.

Find three bowls.
In the first bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff.
In the second bowl mix the sliced apples with the lemon juice
In the third bowl beat the sugar and butter until creamy. Add the egg yolks and beat well.
Fold in the sifted flour and lastly the beaten egg whites.
If liked add cinnamon and a few chopped walnuts- optional.
Pour the cake mixture into a cake tin and put the apple slices on the top, pressing down slightly. Sprinkle with more brown sugar.

Bake in the oven at 180 for 35-40 minutes.

When cool dust with sifted icing sugar.




Getting To Know You - The First Day of School

Children are busy getting ready for their first day of school. For many it really will be the first day of school. It's a very emotional moment for parent's and children alike. My post today is dedicated to all the children off to school and to their teachers.
The song from the 1956 film 'The King and I', called 'Getting to know you' is a teacher singing to her young charges. She wants to get to know them and she hopes they will like her. Any teacher must know that feeling when you look at all the little faces before you, trusting you and expecting you to look after them and teach them things, it makes your heart swell and you hope so much that you won't let them down.

Some quick tips for teachers that are useful for us all,

Be enthusiastic,
Be fair
Show kindness
Don't take sides
Make sure that at the end of the day everyone feels good about themselves.

Have a good school year everyone.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Coastal Road


The Coastal Road

The road winds round the cliffs
Hugging them to its'side
Like a ribbon in the breeze
Oh what a lovely ride.

I will never ever tire
Of the wondrous sight
The brilliance of the daytime
The beauty of the night.

For as the sun goes gently down
The blue of the sea turns grey,
The sky is painted pink and gold
A perfect end to the day.

Lights come on along the shore
Showing you the way
Calling you to stop awhile
In a little bay.

The little beach bar comes to life
The waiter brings some wine
Tells you he has caught some fish
And would you care to dine?

Stars appear and light the sky
The waves splash on the shore
All my senses on red alert
I could not ask for more.

I store these feelings in my heart
With love to you and me
Join me now and raise your glass
To the magic of the sea.

There's the rhythm of the waves
The scent of the salted spray
The feel of the sand between your toes
The warmth of the end of day.


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Thinking about keys

Today  we went to get a copy of a key made. The little shop was full of keys, all over the walls, in baskets everywhere. The young man in charge of the shop was busy with another customer. I magined him at school 
'What would you like to do when you grow up Johnny?'
''I'd like to cut keys.'
Why didn't I think of that?
My own son was fascinated  by keys from a very early age. He saw them as the entry into the magical world of cars, which he adored. All you needed was a key to make a car go brrm brrm. He had a whole collection and would insert them into all the nooks and crannies he could find.

The key cutter young man had opened up the customer's flashy key with a screwdriver and was peering inside, scratching his head and looking perplexed. More customers came in Na we all crowded round the dismantled key. We all peered inside.He set about moving round the pieces as though it was a Rubrik cube. After a lot of umming and ahhing he snapped it shut, screwed it back together and smiled. He looked triumphant and told the man to pay at the till. The young man turned to us, his confident manner restored. Just as he had finished cutting our key the previous customer returned.
He complained that the key wouldn't turn.
'Ah but I only changed the battery, just as you asked. You didn't say anything about it having to turn.'

All these keys everywhere. I've got loads of keys in drawers, big bunches of keys. Keys to lock things up, keep things in and keep things out.
How many love songs and poems invite us to find the key to a heart,a mystery, a life even?
A big golden shiny key to open up a whole bright new place.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Oh Happy Day

Happy Monday to all my lovely readers of my blog!
It's Monday and it's September so we should all be full of energy, batteries re- charged after the weekend and Summer holidays. Children everywhere will be getting ready for the new school year.
Energy is everywhere, all the time:) Cosmic energy, physical energy, energy of the senses and the mind.
Make your energy happy energy. Think nice thoughts, do kind actions,spread goodwill.
Harness your happy energy, use it well and be glad glad glad.

Today I had some happy news
I'm full of joy galore
Now every time I think of it
My heart swells even more.

Oh there is no limit
To the love that here can dwell
The happy human heart
Is an unfathomable well.

Oh I got such happy news
It fills my heart with glee
It is surely just the best news
That ever there could be.

Let the sunshine in today
Light up every part
Leave no corner in the dark
May gladness fill your heart.

Feel your heart begin to beat
To the rhythm of a song
A caring one, a loving one
To last the whole day long.

A poem from my series' Poems I could have written at Primary School.'

Suggested songs to put a happy beat in your heart:)
Oh Happy Day
It's my happy heart you here'
If you're happy and you know it'
I was born with a smile on my face
Glad that I live am I

Waka Waka

All suggestions welcome!
Have a great week

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Lighten your load

A friend of mine has set off to go on the route of Santiago dell Compostella. It's about 850 kms long. It's going to take her over a month. She took nine kilos of luggage with her. The first thing she did when she got to the start of the walk was send half of it home again. She said that's the first lesson that you learn on the pilgrimage. We all carry to much stuff around with us. We need to lighten our load. We need to discard excess luggage, physical and emotional.
 I love the word 'Stuff', it can refer to so many things.
Another friend of mine told me to google' People who can't throw things away', she said it's an illness. She knows someone who can't throw anything away, not even old newspapers, her husband. He says it's like throwing away part of your soul.
Nowadays we are used to recycling and trying to dispose of unwanted or used goods in a responsible way so as not to harm the environment. Magazines are full of advice on how to 'clear the clutter,. Some people are better than others at doing this, but we must all have some things that we find hard to dispose of.

There is always sound advice about clothes:-
 give away anything you haven't worn for two years.
  Sounds easy. Why should you hold on to things you can't wear.Maybe though you might just lose that bit of weight round your middle and then you can wear it again. It holds happy memories, you wore it at a party where you met someone special.
Ask yourself if you would buy it again today if you saw it in a shop.
Well again, you might not, but it might come back in to fashion again.
Does it make you feel good?
Well not if it's too tight and shows your bulges but then again see above.

Ah no, the best thing to have when sorting out clothes is a daughter, definitely, and when you are going through that phase of not knowing whether you are young or old, like in your forties, then maybe a teenage son, if he's got the time of course, will stop you looking ridiculous.

Make up is much easier to sort out now it has a shelf life stamped on it, but then again maybe that gold shimmery eye shadow that made you look like someone from Star Trek might look good at Christmas, or the shocking pink blusher that made you look like a Victorian doll might be just what you need in the middle of Winter.

So the morning has gone and there is a very small pile of things to discard.

The one area where I have the most difficulty is with cards. I have draws full of cards, little notes and letters. As I sort through them reading the warm words full of affection from friends and family I am soon in need of a box of tissues and a strong cup of coffee. This is where it feels to me like I am parting with my soul, like my friend's husband says.
What if that person is no longer here/no longer seems to like me/ will forget my birthday/anniversary this year? All those memories flooding back of people I have been fond of and are part of the mosaic of my life. Oh dear.
The other day I found a scrap of paper, from seven years ago, from Lake Placid in America. All the people round the table had written a dedication for me, for the lovely evening full of goodwill and happiness. One woman had written her favourite saying. She came back to me as though she was sitting in front of me. I haven't seen her since, but there she was, her happy smile and friendly face as I read her message.

There is so much good in the worst of us
And as much bad in the best of us
That it doesn't behove any of us
to talk about the rest of us.
signed Marion.

Then her husband had written:)

Tonight the dinner was excellent and the company was more than excellent. What a great evening and what great people to share it with.

So here's to Harold and Marion and everyone who touches on other people's lives with kindness.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Blackberry days

But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.
(The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter)

It is too early to think of Autumn just yet. The shops are still full of peaches and the first figs. The sun is still bright and warm and the sea is still inviting. There are however small signs of the approaching Autumn, the evenings are longer and the hedgerows dotted with plump blackberries and hazelnuts.
Just go out and pick a few blackberries and add them to some chopped apple, cook gently and serve with brown sugar and cream. I had an auntie that hated cooking, and when I went to her house her favourite way to serve blackberry and apple was to sprinkle it generously with cornflakes and cream from a tin. We used to eat it watching television.
 My uncle would make funny remarks about the programme we were watching and I would roll around giggling. We usually watched 'Juke Box Jury' and my auntie knew the words of all the songs. I can hear us now, my uncle's remarks, my auntie's singing and my laughing. So this evening I thought of them while making this dessert.
My husband's verdict:- too autumnal for him, we're still in Summer.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Pack a little love in your suitcase

September is the time of year when many young people will be leaving home to study or work elsewhere, small children might be starting nursery school, older children going back after their long Summer holiday. All these young people will probably be filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. One chapter of their life is closing and another is opening. This post is for them, to wish them luck and for those left behind too.
A friend of mine went to a farewell part for her nephew who is going to Japan for two years. He is going to the other side of the world. He is in his early twenties and is very excited. It is a wonderful chance for him to learn and specialise in his chosen field. We were talking about his card and what she should write in it. She liked a phrase from the Dalai Llama but neither of us could remember it exactly.
Give your children roots to grow, wings to fly and a reason to come back again.

Of course lots of people who go away, don't come back. Life can take them faraway from where they started, but the experiences of your early years, your growing up years stay with you forever and you take them with you.

Here's a joke for the day

Tony:  So, where are you from?
Gordon: Scotland.
Tony; Which part?
Gordon; All of me.

It doesn't take much to show you care