Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The beauty of the Bluebell woods

Britain is home to more than half of the world's population of Bluebells. I didn't know that while I was growing up and playing in the Beech woods near my home and marvelling at the carpet of blue that looked like the sea and went so perfectly with the fresh green of the new beech leaves.I just thought they were beautiful. We would pick them and take them home and arrange them together in a big earthenware vase. Now they are a protected species and no-one would dream of picking them. There are hundreds of Bluebell woods all over Britain. Last week my cousin told me that she had been on a beautiful Bluebell and cowslip walk. Cowslips had all but disappeared but are now thriving again due to a ban on picking wild flowers and re-introducing them to woodland areas. Bluebells and cowslips are two of the flowers that my mum loved best and I associate them so much with her.She was like them. When I came to live in Italy I missed that wonderful two weeks when they are in full bloom and make you so aware of the wonder of creation. When my daughter got married our new Italian relatives came to Britain  and marvelled at the bluebells. Actually they really gasped in wonder as they walked through the bluebell woods, breathing in their scent and looking up at the shafts of sunlight piercing the new foliage. Then my daughter's mother-in-law told us that she had got some in her garden back in Italy.Her father-in-law had been a prisoner of  war in Britain and had bought some bluebell bulbs back to Italy with him.He'd probably get a fine today. Now every year she makes a point of me going to see them while they are at their best. Earlier than in Britain, as the warm weather starts earlier,so they are over now. The beautiful show of the Bluebell woods only lasts a couple of weeks and seems to me like the crowning glory of spring before she waves her hand to us and makes way for summer.
On Sundays we would often listen to Kenneth McKellar a Scottish singer, we all loved Scotland and we all loved being reminded of the heather and the highlands. My mum sang this song called the Bluebells of Scotland to me. It has a haunting melody and the words must surely reach the heart of any lassie that has had to bid farewell to her laddie, and sought solace in a bluebell wood.
Here are the words as my mum sang them.

The Bluebells of Scotland

Oh Where? Tell me where is your Highland laddie gone.
Oh where? Tell me where is your Highland laddie gone.
He's gone with streaming banners where noble deeds are done
And he's so in my heart, I wish him safe at home
Oh where? tell me where did your Highland laddie dwell.
Oh where? Tell me where did your highland laddie dwell
He dwelt in Bonnie Scotland where bloom the sweet bluebells
And he's so in my heart I rue my laddie well
Oh what? Tell me what should your Highland laddie slay.
Oh what? Tell me what should your Highland laddie slay
Oh so though love will be his guide and bring him safe again
And so my heart would break if my Highland laddie were slayed
He's gone with streaming banners where noble deeds are done
And he's so in my heart, I wish him safe at home.

Bluebells are also known as wild hyacinths, here there is also red campion

A bluebell wood where I grew up

Modified with my I phone to look even deeper blue

Cowslips, now flourishing again

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Viva l'Italia

These friendly waiters wearing Italian ties are looking forward to cheering their National team

The police launch, ambulance boat and fire brigade are all at the ready to speed off across the lake
Spritz Campari and spritz aperol and a tray of olives,capers, tomatoes and taralucci all from Puglia
Happy to pose for a picture

Italy has got a  beautiful coastline and lots of very pretty lakes and you are never far from a shoreline or some sort of water to enjoy water sports, swimming or just to sit and ponder.. I grew up near a river and I love to be able to sit by water and breathe in those lovely watery smells, watch the ducks squabbling over the crumbs that are surreptiously thrown to them ,even the smell of petrol as the boats set off taking passengers and cars to the other side of the lake,is a pleasure, as it brings back memories of messing about in boats on the river. In Cafè Italia you feel you are witnessing scenes that are being repeated all over the peninsula. Delicious Italian snacks and drinks being served by charming friendly waiters, tourists enjoying the warm sunshine after a long Northern winter, locals at their favourite table tucking in to their friend the chef's special spaghetti, and everyone looking forward to the first match in Brazil on 12th June . .
Cafè Italia

Birds and their nests

A little moorhen or coot, perhaps his name is Danny

In spite of the torrential rain today the birds were all singing their hearts out. Listening to them was a constant reminder of how busy they are with their nests and preparing for their young. Blackbirds were eagerly snatching titbits from the wet earth and flying back to their nests to make sure Mrs. Blackbird was well fed. Swans were on parade keeping unwanted company well away from their nests. Ducks were swimming around in pairs and keeping the little ones tucked away in the rushes. All the trees looked fresh and green, the clear birdsong and the promise of all the new life hatching out, April is a very lively month.
Here is a poem by Thomas Hardy about the joyful sound of the spring birdsong

Proud Songsters

The thrushes sing as the sun is going
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales in bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.

These are brand-new birds of twelve- months growing
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.
Mr Swan on patrol

Monday, 28 April 2014

Colours in the rain

Whenever I am out walking in the rain a whole medley of rainy day songs tumble over each other in my head all jumbled up but a bit like a rainbow washing over me. Today is Monday so I started off with the first few lines of 
rainy days and Mondays
Always get me down,

Only they don't because I like Mondays now I don't go to school and I like rain , especially in April when I know it is a good thing for plants.
The next one to come up was
Oh listen to the rhythm
Of the pouring rain
Washing down upon my heart
The only girl I ever loved
Has gone away
And with her she took my heart.

The only girl I ever has gone away
Looking for a brand new start
She doesn't know it
But when she went that day
Along with her she took my heart

That doesn't look quite right now it's written down but it sounds really good in my head.
Next came
Like walking in the rain
And wishing on a star
Up above
And being so in love
You can really shout that , in your head.

I was walking through a market and there was a constant downpour not only from the sky but also from the awnings of the market stalls. 
Lastly, as it was raining very hard and I was getting soaked I sang
Oh no it's raining again
Too bad I'm losing a friend
And then I looked around for bright colours that stood out in the rain and the grey mist.


Carpe diem , enjoy the present

Shades of green are restful on the eye

A tree lined avenue makes for a pleasant journey
The fresh green of the leaves in spring is a real tonic
Many people like to advise others to live in the present. That is all we have, they will say, life is a gift that is why we call it the present. It is true of course that we should enjoy the present and not spoil it by dwelling on the past and filling it with regrets and recriminations. But we should also reflect on the past, learn from previous mistakes, try and heal old wounds. We should plan for the future by not spoiling it by  reckless building, polluting  and  doing anything today that could cause potential harm.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) has this to say about living in the present.

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it, and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. 
t a mixture of deciduous and evergreens 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Passionate about Italian cars

Whenever most men talk about cars their faces light up and they start talking about bumpers and wing mirrors and design and speed with great pasdion. The mere mention of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari or Lamborghini and in their imaginations they are off . Steering cars at a lively pace round mountain passes or hugging the shores of a lake with impressive skill. As long as my car is reliable, doesn't make funny noises and is full of petrol it makes me more than happy. Today I saw a rally of FIAT vintage cars. There were lots of FIAT 500s. Seeing them reminded me  of when I first went to Rome over forty years ago. Then the streets were lined with FIAT 500s , parked all over the place, higgledy piggledy , if someone got blocked in they just gave a good- natured toot of the horn and the owner appeared and removed it with a cheerful wave. It was the only car I remember seeing. Today the owners of all these vintage cars talked about them lovingly and proudly, willingly receiving compliments about the condition of the bodywork and chrome. Lots of the cars were a good ten years or so older than their owners. Everybody seemed to have a story to tell about their adventures in an old FIAT car.
My story makes me sound a bit of a twit , but I'll tell it anyway. When I first came to Italy and my grasp of the language was poor, my mother- in- law was reminiscing about her life during the war. She told me that before the war she had enough money in old lire in her savings account to buy a topolino which means a little mouse. After the war her money had devalued so much she couldn't afford one anymore. Well this a sounded very sweet to me, that she would want a little mouse so badlly. After all I had a yearned for a hamster. Then someone explained that a Topolino was the name of a little car. There was one on display today and the owners treated it like a member of their family. All the time the Italian flag unfurled in the wind above us. These FIAT cars have accompanied Italians faithfully through the years and have been looked after like greatly loved pets as everyone admired them and discussed their loyal nature.

Think about it, have a quiet mind

'Please be quiet, I can't hear myself think', our teacher at Primary school would say. It sounded funny, but it's true. We need a bit of peace and quiet to be able to think things through and let our imaginations work, and to sort out our thoughts and work out our problems. I have always liked to have time to think. I like to know what other people think too, to see their point of view and then reflect on it.. You can feel ill at ease with people who don't tell you what they think ,or even worse seem to be saying the opposite of what they think.
Today I read a newspaper from cover to cover. A proper newspaper, that got a bit wet from the rain, went all crinkly and looked most uninviting when I had finished with it. There was a section full of crosswords, sudokus and brainteasers to make you think and then feel a bit dim. Apart from all the main news there was an interesting article on how going for a walk is good for the imagination and thought processes. This poem by Lord Thomas Vaux, the Tudor poet says how important it is to find time to think. He must have had a lot to think about living through such a lively period of history.

When all is done and said
In the end shall thus you find,
He most all doth bathe in bliss
That hath a quiet mind,
And, clear from worldly cares
Can deem to be content
The sweetest time in all his life
In thinking to be spent.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Lemon and honey

Lemon trees grow happily next to kumquats

lemons on the tree

the lemon flower has a sweet perfume

Isn't it funny 
How a bear 
Likes honey
Buzz buzz buzz
I wonder why he does.

Winnie- the-Pooh

Today I was sitting next to a lemon tree and revelling in breathing in the sweet perfume of it's flowers. There was a Peter,Paul and Mary song called Lemon tree which warned of the dangers of love, likening it to the Lemon Tree.

It went like this:

When I was just a lad of ten
My father said to me
Come here and take a lesson
From the lovely lemon tree.
Don't put your faith in love my son
My father said to me
For love you'll find is often like
The lovely lemon tree.

Lemon tree very pretty
And the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon
Is impossible to eat

One day beneath the lemon tree
My love and I did lie
A girl so sweet that when she smiled
The stars rose in the sky
We passed the summer lost in love
Beneath the lemon tree
The music of her laughter
Hid my father's words from me


She left me for another
It's a common tale but true
A sadder man but wiser now
I sing my song to you

Now my father would never have said that. If you put lots of honey in lemon juice it really does you good. You need them both. Honey and lemon juice together. Works wonders. Honey on its own, too sweet, lemon juice , too sharp, put them together - perfect ! Like men and women.
Different types of honey
Make Winnie- the- Pooh lemonade by dissolving honey in a small amount of hot water and then adding lemon juice , lots of cold water and ice for Summer, more hot  water for Winter.
Lemon and honey for love and health.

Friday, 25 April 2014

More subtle sounds and misunderstandings

My Dad used a variety of expressions to discipline us while we were growing up. We knew we'd got it really wrong when he shook his head and said'You've got  a lot to learn'. His most common instruction to  us was don't stick  your neck out, or you'll get yourself in hot water and when we had done those things in spite of his warnings we needed to be let off the hook. I really liked these things he said, they were caring and taught us toshow a lot of consideration for people's feelings. I hear his voice saying them on many occasions, guiding me through all sorts of situations.
Often I find myself in a group of people of different nationalities all speaking impeccable English and being the only one who ihas English as a mother- tongue. It happened yesterday and I was totally in awe of their amazing English. Lots of fancy words with Latin roots. Penultimate instead of the last but one. They were talking about Europe. I heard my dad's voice telling me not to stick my neck out and get myself in hot water They started to talk ablut Britain. I thought they said we wete Jerry- pickers. I was about to say 'oh come on, we are not' when I realised it was actually - cherry- pickers.  Then I switched off only to hear something about someone's backside. The twelve year old girl inside me started to cause trouble. Of course they meant round the back of.. 
Behind, bottom, backside all can cause a giggle if used inappropriately.
The dilemma is always to correct or not to correct.Dont stick your neck out. You'll get into hot water, said my dad's inner voice.probably along with ' you need to grow up a bit !'

Showers of love

This is a lovely poem by Thomas Campion. It is perfect for April with its sudden showers that instead of spoiling our fun in the sun are actually making plants and flowers grow and blossom. Just like the effect that love has on us.

Deeds from love, and words, that flow
Foster like kind April showers
In the warm sun all things grow,
Wholesome fruits and pleasant flowers,
All so thrive his gentle rays
Whereon human love displays.