Thursday, 31 July 2014

Cliff top flowers




Walking along a cliff top it is always a pleasure to see the variety of flowers and shrubs bravely facing the elements.  Nobody planted them there, they haven't been carefully pruned and watered by an able gardener, but there they are brightening up the path. The beautifl blooms you can see in gardens have usually had a lot of  loving care showered on them and they respond producing a magnificent display. It makes me think of people. It is easy to grow up well in a loving and happy home, or it should be. The cliff top flowers at first glance aren't as showy as the ones in a garden. They have to thrive and survive on their own. They look perfectly at home. They grow sturdy and strong, standing up to the wind and the rain. They keep you company on your walk.

Roasted vegetables

I forgot to put the potatoes in
A great way to get your five a day is to roast a selection of vegetables in the oven. In the summer the best ones to use are red onions, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, peppers.
Set the oven to 180 .
Line the oven tray with greaseproof paper.
Wash carefully and cut into even sizes your chosen vegetables.
Arrange them on the oven tray.
Drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put in the oven for about half an hour, turning gently half way through to make sure all the vegetables are cooked evenly.
Serve with cheese and ham.

The first day of August

Tomorrow is the first day of August . In Italy the holiday season is at its height. All the hotels are at their most expensive. Lots of businesses and shops close down. It is the holiday month . The days are getting shorter but the sun is still as hot and there is a festive mood in the air.
July received its name from Julius Caesar and August got its name from the Emperor Augustus (27Bc - 14AD). Augustus was born Gaius Octavius and then changed his name. he was Julius Caesar's great nephew. Supposedly the month of August was chosen to be named after him because something nice happened to him then, not because that was when he was born. Apparently July had thirty-one days and August originally only thirty. Another day was added to August in order that Augustus might not be in any respect inferior to Julius Caesar.
To herald in this  lovely month which makes you think of the playing on the beach, rambling in the mountains and boating on the lake, here is a verse by Revd. Combe Miller  (1745-1814)

Fairest of months! Ripe Summer's Queen,
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen,
Sweet August doth appear.

Also just a short verse from Robert Burns which makes me think of the golden cornfields and wide open spaces of Scotland.

The moor-cock springs on whirring wings
Among the blooming heather,
Come, let us stray our gladsome way
And view the charms of Nature,
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn.
And every happy creature.

Happy August to all of you.


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The pleasure of anticipation, non vedo l'ora

When I first started to learn Italian I wanted to learn how to express the feeling of looking forward to something. . In English we tend to use looking forward to  a lot . It is a feeling that keeps you going . I am looking forward to seeing you ! I can't wait to see you ! They both give the idea that you are very happy about an event that is about to happen in the not- too- distant future .  If the event is more unlikely we might see longing to . i' m longing to see my cousins who  emigrated to Australia and is coming home next year. Longing to has a hint of yearning about it  I' m longing to tell you about my new job , but the opportunity hasn't arisen yet .
Longing to
Looking forward to
Can't wait 
 In Italian they are summed up like this Non vedo l'ora  which translates as I can't see the time.

Today  I am looking forward to going on holiday. I can't wait to see my relatives and I am longing to catch up on all their news.
Non vedo l'ora !!
Winnie - the - Pooh sums it up best. Piglet asks him what  he likes doing best. Pooh wants to say eating honey. Then he hesitates because there is a moment just before you eat the honey that is even better. He doesn't know what it's called. I suppose we could say the pleasure of anticipation.

Summer flowers




?

Zinnias
?
Roses
This Summer the flowers are as lovely as ever. Some flowers thrive on lots of intense sunshine while others prefer the shade or need lots of water. Roses seem to manage quite happily whether facing the heat of an Italian summer or the more variable British one. Looking at flowers in a garden try and think of how many girls names come from flowers or plants.  Or could ...
Rose -popular in Italian and English
Daisy - in Italian Margherita
Violet- Violetta
Holly - would be awful in Italian .. Agrofoglio
Ivy - also awful in Italian Edera .. In French it is Lierre. I only know that because I had a friend whose mum was called Ivy and they named their boat Lierre after her.
Heather , in Italian Erica
Hyacinth, we all know Hyacinth Bucket , her sisters are called Daisy and Rose.
Veronica , the same in Italian
Virginia , from Virginia creeper.
Primrose
Then there are the names of flowers that could sound nice but are not used like Zinnia and Petunia.
There are many that couldn't be used at all like Plumbago.
As you look at the flowers and think of their names you can quite easily weave a story round them.

The snowdrops are always the first to appear
Heralding the beginning of a bright new year.
Then primroses and violets follow quickly suit
Crocuses and daffodils beginning to shoot.
Tulips in their splendour give colour everywhere
Competing with the blossom that floats into your hair.
Honeysuckle, foxgloves, and flowers bright magenta
You only know the name if you go to the Garden Centre.
When the roses start to bloom
You know you'll be alright
Their scent will surround you
Far into the night.
Now a Summer fanfare of colours from flowers big and small
Just look at those delphiniums
Standing straight and tall!
We all need the flowers to help us on our way
There is nothing like the flowers to brighten up our day.

I expect you are all thinking that a ten year old could have written that ! That's me- young at heart !
?






Cliff top flowers

Petunias visiting for a holiday

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Poem of the day, looking for calm in stormy weather

My poem for the day is by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). I have given you poems by him in previous posts . Just to refresh our memories he is the one who was the son of the famous headmaster of Rugby school. He wanted to marry and so got a job as a school inspector and travelled widely on the newly built railways. The verse for today is about calm. It is difficult to describe calm, but the verse seems to be in praise of quietness. There have been lots of thunderstorms in the last few days, in Italy and Britain. They can cause a lot of damage. Whole vineyards and crops destroyed, flash flooding making travelling hazardous and ruining people's homes. The first time I experienced an Italian thunderstorm I thought it was quite exciting, I hadn't seen many in Britain. We were on holiday, my dad and mum my brother and me. We had stopped for the night in the middle of nowhere. My dad went down to the bar to share a drink with the local men. You know how much he liked doing that. He was able to carry on a long conversation using a handful of words, Wonderful, momento, salute, cin cin. All that was needed was his broad friendly smile and his evident goodwill and he had made friends with them all. So there we were up in the room on our own. The Summer storm was raging outside. An extremely loud clap of thunder caused all the lights to go out. We then watched from the window as the lightning lit up the surrounding countryside. It was highwaymen weather. We were very excited, being about nine and eleven, it was an adventure. We opened the door of our room so that some of the candlelight from below filtered up the stairs. An eerie glow appeared coming along the corridor accompanied by a low, moaning noise and someone calling urgently, ?Eeee noooo'. My brother and I screamed, well I did, he might not like me saying that. We ran in and jumped on the bed. Our mum, ever cool, calm and collected, went to greet the newcomer. She put her arms around her to comfort her and all four of us sat huddled on the bed until the men came up the stairs. It is probably an exaggeration to say it was the highlight of out holiday, but we talked and laughed about it for a long time.
Back to the poem and calm through the storms. There is also the song the Liverpool supporters sing, Walk on, and the hymn that goes

Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire
Oh still small voice of calm
Oh still small voice of calm.

Matthew Arnold

Ah, quiet, all things feel thy balm!
Those blue hills too, this river's flow,
Were restless once, but long ago.
Tamed is their turbulent youthful glow;
their joy is in their calm.



 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Friends who grow things


Watching the sun go down on a beautiful July evening

ways with vegetables from Puglia
It's a real treat on a summer evening to be invited for a drink to friends with a lovely garden. As you sit watching the sun go down and hearing about their holidays you can see the hard work that goes into keeping a garden and growing fruit and vegetables. Then as you go home your friends give you a basket of freshly picked tomatoes and peppers and you feel very privileged to share the rewards of all their hard work. Along with my tomatoes and peppers came a recipe from Puglia. The tomatoes are sliced in rounds and then dressed with olive oil, salt and capers. The peppers are sliced and lightly grilled, then dressed with anchovy slices, pine nuts and olive oil. Then you can go home and have them for supper thinking about the beautiful Salento coastline.
Green peppers and red tomatoes, fresh from the garden

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Summer sunsets -






The evenings are noticeably shorter and the sunset is slowly shifting across from the mountains. The days shorten by a quarter of an hour a week so since the end of June the sun sets an hour earlier. Watching the sunset is surely one of the most lovely  ways to think of the world as a whole, as one unit. A French film about twenty years ago told the story of Le Rayon Vert. The green ray of light that you see if you watch the sunset with your true love. You have holds and watch it together and don't blink because it is just a moment. Here are some of the sunsets I saw last week. I hope they make you have sweet dreams.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Stories from Le Bar Marchè - Ekaterina

On Market day Ekaterina always liked to take Mme. Monique through the tiny back streets of the small Mediterranean town and stop at the Patisserie on the corner of the square.
She would buy them both a small chocolate éclair to have in the afternoon. Ekaterina loved the way the eclairs were placed carefully in a beautiful box and then wrapped with ribbon. It made it such a special occasion when she opened it at home with Mme. Monique, looking on in eager anticipation of their treat .She liked to pretend it was a gift from an admirer.
Then she would make them both a drink .She would hold the cup to the old lady's lips and then gently wipe them. Then give her the eclair  in bite sized pieces. Mme.Monique's eyes would light up as she savoured the creamy texture and a mischievous glint would appear in her eye. The two women were united in the sharing of this pleasure.

As Ekaterina pushed the wheelchair round the edge of the Bar Marchè she would look at the tourists and try to imagine what their lives were like.
It was an unspoken rule that the bar was left to the tourists on market day, except maybe the kind old man who run the Couscous cafè.
The tables needed to be free for all the people who had came to the market and wanted to try the Plat Du Jour. On the little blackboard it said today's special was Omelette à l'Italienne.
There was such a festive air, with the accordion player and the families all in their colourful clothes. Ekaterina thought how much she was looking forward to going home in August, not long now.
Each year, for one month, the small town where she had grown up came alive again. Weddings were celebrated, families reunited, young people chattering in the language of their parents, dancing and singing in the streets and the smell of roasting meat all the time as homecomings were organized.
 When the wall had come down she hadn't for one moment thought of how different her life would be. How all her friends and relatives would be scattered across the globe .Her son was already married and had a baby. Her husband spent more and more time at home since his accident at work.
 It hadn't taken long to see that it was up to Ekaterina to secure a future for her grandson. She didn't like to think too much about that time.
The memories that she treasured belonged to a period of her life before the wall came down.
 Every Summer Ekaterina would go with her mother to stay with her grandparents in the country. Ekaterina could still taste the plump juicy tomatoes, peaches and apricots. In the evenings her grandmother would run a bath for Ekaterina and then wrap her up in a soft towel and place her in the huge armchair in the corner of  Deda her grandfather's study. While her Baba took a soft brush and carefully dried Ekaterina's hair, singing softly, she would read all the books she could from the shelves on the wall. Her favourites were the Sherlock Holmes stories. She imagined him to be handsome and strong, protective and on the side of the good. She longed to meet a man like that.
 Ekaterina's mother would protest that she was too young for such stories, that she would be too afraid to sleep. But she wasn't at all, she would dream of being looked after by a strong kind man and her dreams were always peaceful.
It was easy and cheap to travel by train then and often with her sisters and cousins, her mother and her aunts, they would set off with bags full of bread, cheese, and cakes, peaches and tomatoes, and journey as far as they could, sometimes for days. She felt as though she must have seen the whole world.

 Ekaterina's husband wasn't so adventurous. He was happy to sit in the bars with the other men after work , smoking and playing cards. Their son grew up strong and handsome, just like she had imagined Sherlock Holmes.
Ekaterina's  grandson was only three months old when the wall came down.
To give her family a future she knew she had to go away and earn money.
 It was always the same story. An elderly or invalid relative who needed constant care. No-one had time, they were all busy working or lived too far away. They needed someone there all the time, to do everything.
Most of the families had been kind to her.
Mme. Monique had been given three months to live when Ekaterina had started to look after her. That was six years ago. The old lady's son and daughter were delighted with Ekaterina.They felt a bit guilty that they hadn't  worked this miracle themselves.
Sunday was Ekaterina's day off and then she would come to the Bar Marchè with her friends. They would put on their best clothes and order tea, hot and black and sweet. They would talk excitedly in their own language ,admiring each others clothes, discussing their plans to go home and catching up on each others news.
 This Sunday she would tell them that she had got her ticket and had bought all her presents to take home. None of them ever talked about how different their lives could have been.

Poem for the day

Thank you for all your comments about my stories. I just wanted to say that they are all fiction and imaginary characters and places. They are set in a small town on the Mediterranean coast where tourists mingle with the locals in the Summer. I have written quite a few stories lately because I have joined a Creative writing group. I hope you enjoy reading them. Yesterday I wrote about an imaginary Scotsman called Fergus and mentioned that he recited a poem called 'To a Haggis' every year on Burns Night. I thought I would make it my poem of the day. Don't worry if you can't understand it all, neither can I, but it is really enjoyable and entertaining to listen to.

To a Haggis, by Robert Burns.

     
Fair fa' your honest sonsie face
Great Chieftain of the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
                        Painch, tripe or chairm.
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
                        As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdles like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to  mend a mill,
                         In time of need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
                         Like amber bead.

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready slight,
trenching your gushing entrails bright
                         Like onie ditch
And then, O what a glorious sight,
                         Warm reekin rich.

Then horn for horn they stretch and strive,
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belye
                          And bent like drums,
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
                          Bethankit,, hums.

Is there that owns his French ragout,
Or olio that would staw a sow,
Or fricassee would mak her spew
                          Wi' perefect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering scornful view
                           On sic a dinner.

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'0d rash.
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
                           His nieve a nit,
Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash,
                           O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade.
                            He'll mak it whistle,
An' legs and arms an' heads will sned,
                             Like taps of thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare.
Auld Scotland makes me skinking ware,
                            That jaups in luggies,
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
                             Gie her a Haggis !!

I'll just tell you quickly here that we have French friends that belong to a Scottish circle in Paris. There seems to be a very close bond between Scots and the French. Robbie Burns even got involved in the French Revolution so it goes back a long way. Our friends love Scottish dancing and have entered lots of competitions. they also love Haggis, but eaten the Scottish way, with a lot of whiskey.
For my Italian friends, Scottish whiskey, Irish whisky.


Stories from Le Bar Marchè - Jenny

Jenny kissed Fergus as she got out of the car enjoying the thrill she always got from the scent of him. She paused  as she breathed  in and it was just as the kiss she gave him all those years ago when he had talked about fishing in champagne. The minute she set eyes on him she knew that no other man would do, anyone else would have been second best. He still set her heart on fire, as the song goes, after all these years. She had always been grateful to him that he was happy to stay in England. She was an only child and it would have broken her parent's hearts if she had moved away. She knew how much it had cost him. He had chosen her, and she did all she could to keep the Scottish traditions alive in their home. She loved going to Scotland and they had spent most of their family holidays there. This year though, she had proposed a different holiday and was surprised at how readily he had agreed. She was looking forward to seeing Italy. Her friend Gaynor had ran off with an Italian waiter when they were still at school. They had a reputation as Latin Lovers, going round pinching bottoms and whispering Ciao Bella as you walked past. It made her giggle to think of Fergus doing that.
Jenny started to walk through the market looking at all the colourful Summer dresses and bags. She knew Fergus would scoff and say it was all made in China and looked just like the stuff they had at home. She would buy only local products, soap, lavender, garlic, maybe a present for her grandsons. What she loved about the market was the variety of people, the locals mixed with the tourists, all the different languages being spoken around her. She stopped at a stall to look at some lacy shorts for her younger daughter. they looked a bit saucy, like her. Jenny thought about the conversation they had had with the French couple last night. She was surprised at how passionately they discussed Britain's role in the European Union and how interested they were in the Scottish vote. She knew that Fergus was concerned about the outcome. Many of his cousins were walking about with Yes stickers on their clothes. He couldn't vote, along with about 800,000 other Scots living in England. She had always hoped that belonging to the European Union would have broken down boundaries, made things easier and remove many of the reasons for conflicts on borders. This seemed a step backwards to her. There were so many things ordinary people like her didn't know, she just hoped that the people with the power had thought things through. Pleased with her purchases she walked towards the bar. There  was Fergus, waiting for her, looking a bit less hot and bothered and very glad to see her. She showed him her shopping and as always was delighted with his response.


Souvenirs from France

Soap from Marseille

Friday, 25 July 2014

Stories from Le Bar Marché - Fergus

After the second drink Fergus felt himself relax. He was thirsty all the time in this heat. He had managed to park the car and was waiting for his wife Jenny to walk through the market and join him. He had bought an English language paper because the headlines were all about the Commonwealth games in Glasgow. It looked a grand occasion and he thought he'd ask his daughter to record the opening ceremony for him. Then he put it down and watched the people walking by and listened to the accordion player. His fair Scottish skin was dangerously red and he was glad to be sitting in the shade of the leafy plane trees. This was thei first holiday that he and Jenny had spent in hotels,just the two of them. He had always taken the family camping or trekking, always an outdoor adventure style holiday.Jenny had suggested that  now there was just the two of them maybe they could afford to stay in hotels and go on a touring holiday round France and Italy. He must admit that he was having a wonderful time just the two of them, making impromptu decisions to take this route or that, no planning or schedule was making them feel like they were on a second honeymoon. . 'If only we were' ,he thought.He loved his wife, his daughters and grandsons , he  would do it all over again..They had slept in the car twice, in a car park next to a camper, reclining the seats and then  going to a patisserie for breakfast, holding hands and breathing in the wonderful early morning smell of coffee and fresh ly baked croissants. Now they were in the South of France on their way to Italy.Last night they had shared a drink with a French couple staying in the same hotel.  The French couple were younger than him and Jenny and spoke very good English. They started talking about politics. He found it interesting to hear their opinions on healthcare and education. They were matters that affect us all. Then they  had pointed to the sticker on the car Ecosse  and had asked what he was going to vote in the Referendum in September. Jenny had giggled as he explained. 'I can't vote,' he said ' I live in England'. He didn't think it was funny really. It was ridiculous. A Scotsman with one hundred per cent Scottish blood running through his veins and he couldn't vote, but his nephew's wife from  England, could. He said that he didn't like referendums. The politicians should never have let it get this far, they should have found out what was needed to keep everybody happy. Fergus was an engineer. He had a natural gift for organizing people and bringing out the best in them. His company had sent him down to their headquartes in England over thirty years ago. They said Scotland wasn't big enough for him . He had so much to offer and they wanted him on their top projects. He had always been proud to be a Scottish engineer , following in the steps of Stephenson and the like. The very first weekend a colleague had introduced him to Jenny at a dance. She overheard him calling her a Sassanach. She had laughed so much at the word, he was quite taken aback. No-one laughed at the things he said. He didn't do funny , as his daughters would say.Most people were a bit in awe of him. He had a reputation for being tough, he squared up at the mere brush of a table leg. Jenny  looked at him with her clear blue eyes,she touched his arm gently and asked him if he would like to join her. All evening she listened to him attentively., hanging on his every word and  always, there was the joyous sound of her laughter. He discovered that he liked entertaining her with all his stories about growing up in the Highlands, walking across the heather, hunting for deer. He told her that fishing for salmon in the clear, sparkling streams and rivers of the Cairngorms was like fishing in Champagne. She had stopped laughing then, cupped his face in her hands and kissed him. All sorts of soppy thoughts went through his head, he couldn't believe this was happening to him. His rugged handsome face and strong body had always brought him lots of female attention but he had never felt anything like this. It frightened him a bit. He, who was never scared of anything, was now scared of losing this slim, lovely young woman. They were married within a year. His relatives all came  to the wedding in their kilts and  Jenny's family welcomed them all so warmly they had been like one big family ever since. They now had three daughters with blue eyes just like her and two grandsons with red hair just like him. They lived in England but they all loved Scotland and regularly went there for holidays.While his parents were alive they had spent their Summers there and never missed Hogmanay. His brothers and nephews came down every Christmas and won all the drinking contests with his son-in-laws. Jenny would throw big parties for all their friends and the Scottish contingent would teach them all the Scottish dances wearing their kilts. They always went to Burns night at the local Rowing club in January. Everyone loved his rendering of ' 'To a Haggis.'
  He missed his homeland and  a part of him still yearned to feel the wind blowing over the rough heather and go fishing in the lochs and he thought of the beauty of the moors and the mountains  every day. He could never really support England in the football. He had had to go out of the room when they lost against Costa Rica, in case his son-iin-law saw his mischievous grin. His father had always told him that you have to look at the big  picture in life. You have to look for the good in everyone and be thankful. His work and his family had kept him in England and he knew in his heart that he could never live away from Jenny. As he got to know the English he could see that what had seemed like arrogance was more like being reserved . They liked to keep a distance until they got to know you . Now he saw it was meant as a sign of respect and really just a deep routed conviction that freedom was what mattered and Freedom of speech, freedom of rights. It was a tricky question, one that has been bothering philosophers for centuries..Where one man's freedom ends another's begins, or something like that. The British had  marched round the world as though they owned it, turning most of the map pink, and doing no small amount of harm, but those days were over Fergus thought all this  and watched the accordion player stroll past reaching out to give him some coins. Fergus had grown up in a time of relative peace. He thought that a country should aim for peace. That was what he believed in. His daughters were all against military action. They thought the army should only be there to rescue people from floods and natural disasters. They were all for saving the planet , making sure their way of life wouldn't harm the environment.He had grown up  with his father so anti war, all for being united and bringing peace to the world . ' United we stand ' he would say. The only trouble was he knew just what a hot-headed lot his fellow countrymen could be. They'll be showing Braveheart every night and whipping themselves up into a frenzy. It was difficult. Yes or no , it seemed like a mess.Talking to the French couple last night they thought maybe the solution could come from Brussels. They spoke freely and passionately about the European union. He wasn't used to all these outspoken opinions.
He would ask Jenny what she thought. He saw her, then, coming towards him with her face lit up at the sight of him. His heart beat faster as it always did when she came close to him. She showed him her purchases of soap, herbs and garlic. 'I bet that lot all comes from China' he said. Her deep unfathomable love for him was in the joyful sound of her laughter.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Stories from Le Bar Marchè,, Closing time

Laurent went round his tables wiping them down and stacking up the chairs. He always enjoyed market day in the summer. The colourful clothes the tourists wore, the bright colours of the drinks they ordered,cassis, menthe, citron,, the hum of the different languages as they reached his ears,the air of excitement and expectancy that came with people on holiday, he drank it all in and felt like he'd been on a journey. He was tired now and looking forward to going home. He loved living on his own. he loved the feeling of walking into an empty flat, knowing there would be no surprises. He would find it just as clean and tidy as when he left it.He had thought of getting a cat though, that might be nice. Cats are good at looking after themselves and being on their own, like him. Only Karim was still sitting at his table. He always stayed till closing time on market day. Laurent patted him on the shoulder as he walked passed him. Karim smiled and raised his hand in  a salute. They never said much to each other but a close observer would see how much they meant to each other, would feel the bond that linked them. Karim was like a  guardian angel for Laurent. Some years ago when she was a newly trained doctor, Karim's daughter had been sent by the school to check on Laurent's brother who had been absent without notification. She had assessed the situation with an intuition beyond her years. Within no time at all Laurent's father was in a special clinic, being looked after . She then found his mother a job  in her parent's cafe giving her days a structure that they had never had and making her eat properly.Laurent and his brother had been sent to the local priests where his brother flourished, passing his Bac and going on to qualify as a teacher. It was too late for Laurent he had too many scars but he was happy with his job as a waiter at the Bar Marchè.. Both his parents were now living in assisted accommodation.. Nurses and carers were on hand to look after them as needed. There was a restaurant for visitors and once a month Laurent shared a meal with them. They didn't talk much but it was enough for Laurent that they could look like a normal family, at least to outsiders. Laurent felt he could never repay Karim and his daughter.

Italian Summers

I would  just like to thank you  all for staying with me through the Summer. My regular readers have noticed my summer stories and I hope they will keep you company wherever you are. I just wanted to say some of the things that I love about Italian Summers. July and August are very special to me for some quite personal reason The first time I spent the summer in Italy I was amazed by the lush green of the countryside. I love the Green of the maize, smell of the pines, the brightly coloured flowers overflowing from their terracotta pots. I love waking up early and doing my chores( Yes, right!!). I love flopping about on the cool sheets of the unmade be in the afternoon and waiting for the cool of the evening to go out again. I love seeing children running around at ten o clock at night eating ice creams. I love the open air cinema, listening to live music as the moon comes up, cycling along the lanes in the cool of the evening. I love the cigales in the background, music playing constantly through the day and when they are tired the Grilli take over so there is dancing in the insect world right inro the early hours of the morning. I love all the summer dishes that can be prepared in the morning and give you the illusion of doing nothing much in the kitchen. I love the Italian seaside, the mountains, the lakes. I love all the get-togethers as people come and go on their holidays. Yesterday we had our con-suoceri round and I made them stuffed eggs, pasta fredda and torta salata.
Stuffed eggs and stuffed tomatoes are so easy. You just boil the eggs and then mix the yolk with tuna fish and mayonnaise until nice and creamy, put the mixture back in the hollow of the egg and decorate with anchovy or capers. Arrange nicely on a bed of lettuce, cover and keep in the fridge.
Pasta fredda and Torta salata  are old friends of my blog.
Stuffed tomatoes can be varied depending on what you have at hand. Today I made them by hollowing out the middle then mixing that with tuna fish and mayonnaise - just like the stuffed eggs and decorating with capers and olives.



Stories from Le Bar Marchè - Alessandro

He saw the waiter studying him and knew what he was thinking straight away. Up until a few months ago he would have been right, but the attractive young woman sitting next to him was his daughter this time, not his latest conquest. Since coming out of the doctor's office Alessandro had wanted to spend as much time with his daughter as he could. The doctor had told him not to worry. He just needed to make some life style changes. Exercise a bit more,give up smoking and eat more healthily.He was frightened though. He had never thought about his health befgore, he had sailed through life without so much as a cold. Now to be told that he had high blood pressure and should slow down was a bit of a shock. He had started to reflect on his life, on what really mattered to him. He had pleaded with his ex-wife to help him mend the rift that had appeared when he walked out them both when Anna was at Elementari. Francesca had a new husband now and two small boys. She had persuaded their daughter to give him a chance. Anna was studying Archeology at the University in Rome and so he had planned a route going from Rome round to Arles, Orange, Nimes and the Pont du Gard. They had stopped at the small town of Frèjus for the night and  had been busy learning about its Roman history. Where they were sitting in the market place had once been by the sea, a Roman port. Last night they had been to a show at the Arena . They had both laughed so much at the Toro Piscine and wandered what the Ancient Romans would have thought of that. He had never enjoyed female company so much. They had so much to say to each other, he found everything she said fascinating. They were interested in all the same things.She hung on his every word as he told her all he knew about the Romans.  Today they had seen the columns of the forum and been round a museum with a floor map showing the Roman port. Everything was protected and displayed with loving care. Not for the first time he reflected on all the treasures in Italy. Something like eighty per cent of the World's Art treasures were supposedly to be found there. No wonder Italians sometimes seemed complacent. They were surrounded every day by all this beauty. they couldn't dig a hole without finding some hidden treasure .Just to build a car park near his apartment had taken years, with all the bureaucracy involved when the workmen had found some old Roman toilet thing. The pizzeria round the corner from his office had a Roman bath carefully restored and displayed under a glass floor. . It was probably just as well that the French had the Mona Lisa. The queues to get in the Uffizi or the Gallerie Vaticane were long enough as it was.
He had always been a womanizer, he couldn't help it. One woman alone had never been enough. He had always been drawn to a short skirt or a cleavage. He loved being close to a woman's softness and scent, but in the morning he liked to wake up alone. The only woman he had really loved was Francesca, but even she had worn him down. All that nagging and the rules. No smoking in the house, no outdoor shoes in the bedrooms. All the questions when he was late. It had seemed better just to walk away. He hadn't thought that she would punish him by keeping Anna away from him.He hadn't seen that coming at all.
Anna was telling him about her Tesi di Laurea. She had thought of a title and just needed her Professor's approval .It was going to be about their trip. He looked at her lovely  face and' a strange sensation came over him. He thought he was going to cry. She put her hand on his arm. ?It's all going to be alright, papa,'she looked into his eyes.'You're going to be fine'.
He put his arm round her and drew her close breathing in the perfume of her freshly washed hair.How many times he had done that when she was a little girl.he thought of all the bath times and bedtime stories he had missed. He was being given a second chance.
They stood up and he put a couple of notes on the table for the tough-looking waiter. After all, you can't take it with you.

Stories from Le Bar Marchè - Marko

Marko bowed low towards the baby clapping her little hands at him. He closed his eyes and saw an audience giving him a standing ovation. His heart swelled with emotion at having given so much pleasure with his music. Flowers were thrown at his feet and the stage was covered with petals. He looked up and took the money from the smiling young blonde woman. She looked him in the eyes and said 'Merci'. These were the things that made him feel alive, that he mattered. He had made a difference to their lives by bringing joy with his music. He carried on round the edge of Le Bar Marchè admiring the gnarled trunks of the majestic plane trees. His music flowed through him. He felt at one with his accordion. His fingers became part of his instrument. Just like his father and his grandfather before him. Music flowed through them, linking them together like a chain. Tonight they would be leaving for St. Maries de la Mer in the Camargue. He loved that festival. Every year they went. His wife Sara, named after the saint of the gypsies, was preparing to dance with her sisters and daughters. 
Dancing at the annual pilgrimage
The swish of their colourful skirts as they moved in time to his music took him back to his childhood, his mother smiling at his father as he played her favourite  melodies.. His first memory of their annual visit to St Sara was of heat and a little fear. As he descended to the vault where St Sara was displayed he was overcome by the heat from the hundreds of candles. He didn't like going underground, he needed to feel the wind in his hair and the sun on his face. Every year though he had enjoyed going there more and more, and now looked forward to it. The tourists would clap and cheer as the gypsy women broke into impromptu dance routines and the men let their music follow them, moving together. Then they would all go and sit at the little cafès and order plates of pommes frites and moules. They would form big, happy groups and the children would sit and join in with the banter. There in St Mairies de le Mer, he felt they must all look just like the clients of Le Bar Marchè. He put the young woman's generous tip in his pocket. He would buy his wife a new bracelet to wear at the Festa.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Stories from Le Bar Marché- Mme. Rose

Every Wednesday morning at eleven o clock  Mme Rose would shuffle through the tables of Le Bar Marché and sit down at Laurent's section. He knew how she liked her café au lait and always kept her an almond croissant. He made her feel safe. Her instinct told her that she could trust him. She hadn't always had this gift. Walking down the aisle on her father's arm all those years ago she had really believed she was going to live happily ever after. She loved Didier so much, couldn't bear to be apart from him and wanted to make him happy.
The first time it happened she thought that she had tripped over something and bumped her head. Then she had looked up and seen her husband's face. Cold hard eyes within a mask of vicious fury. Something broke deep inside her then, an unbearably painful feeling of loss and hopelessness ripped through her very soul. These wounds have never healed she just has learnt to manage them. It took a long time . instead of trying to make her husband happy all her energy went into not making him angry.One day when the attacks were particularly frequent she had tried to confide in her mother- in- law to seek some help. The beseeching desperate look she got had told her all that she needed to know. She had to break the circle. She had to protect her son, to show him that there was another way of being a man. Her weapons became humour, love and kindness. It was like rowing a boat on a lake knowing that a monster lay beneath and could strike at any time. When her son graduated and left home to live with his girlfriend she felt relief wash over her. He was safe now. She felt immense sadness too. It wasn't meant to be like that.
For all those years she had thought it was all her fault, only her problem. Now it was talked about a lot , it was all in the open. There was even a Day each year dedicated to it, world wide. Once on a television chat show someone had said that it was always unacceptable, it was never the woman's fault, a man must never do that. She had cried then, deep body wracking sobs , thirty years of tears in one afternoon.
She pulled out her purse and placed a generous tip on the table for  Laurent.

Stories from Le Bar Marché - Jack finds love at the Bar Marchè

Jack settled the children around the flimsy table and hoisted the baby on to his knee. The six -year -old, Emma studied the menu. Since she'd started school she loved to read anything she could get her hands on. Claire had had to cancel her subscription to Cosmopolitan.

Emma would ask Claire loudly in the supermarket 'what makes daddy roar ?'or ' what's a position?'

 The three -year -old twins were busy jabbering away repeating the French words they had picked up.' Bonjour, au revoir 'and their favourite' oui oui.

'The baby stared at the accordion player with the intensity of a record producer about to discover an amazing new sound.

Claire produced a jar from the depths of her huge bag and started spooning the gooey contents into the baby's mouth. Some of it slopped onto Jack's shorts and then onto Claire 's sundress. She rubbed it away with the babywipes and licked the spoon. Jack was still surprised by her carefree attitude to life, her casual nonchalance.
When he was growing up if he had so much as pressed his nose up against the window his mother would have whisked him away and got out her window cleaner in a flash.

The man at the next table moved his chair away from the twins. He glanced at Jack with a frown on his face and whispered something to his companion, smirking.
Jack took in the man's designer clothes, the smart white polo shirt, beige chinos and white moccasins. His hand was on the knee of his beautiful companion. She had a tiny white pair of shorts and a white camisole top. They were both wearing enormous sunglasses and sipping rose wine. Jack imagined them staying at the same hotel as Matt and Flora or on a luxury yacht waking up to the lapping of the waves and stopping for lunch at St.Tropez.  It was a vision of what Jack had had in mind when he was planning his life.

Jack tried to remember who it was that had said ' Life is what happens while you're making other plans'. He was useless at remembering who said quotes. It could have been Che Guevara or Winnie the Pooh.
Whoever it was had got it right.
 His dream had been to wear Armani suits, wine and dine beautiful women in fancy restaurants and have a sleek sports car. He 'd had one foot on the ladder when he got into university to read Law.
 Then his parents had decided they hated each other and at last explained why the three of them had spent the last twenty years sitting in stony silence.
 His father had moved to Cyprus and set up a Marina. His mother had got a job in a girl's boarding school and gone to live in a cottage in the grounds.
 Jack's sense of disorientation was somewhat muted by his amazing popularity at university. He was constantly surrounded by admiriing girls who said he looked like Jude Law and everyone wanted to be his friend. On graduating he got a job at a top Law firm.
 He was just about to buy his first Armani suit when Claire had appeared from nowhere, plucked him out of the throng of leggy beauties, picked him up by the scruff of the neck and marched him down the aisle.
 At least that's what it felt like. He didn't even remember proposing to her.
 Claire never stopped telling him how wonderful he was. She said she was the luckiest woman in the world and was constantly finding amazing and surprising ways to show him. This had resulted in four children in six years. Each one a carbon copy of Jack with their golden brown eyes and curly blonde hair.
He had become engulfed in Claire's large exuberant and enthusiastic family and now worked in a small solicitor's in the town where they lived.
 Claire liked him to be home in the evenings for bathtime and bedtime stories with the children.
 His secretary was a mature, brisk, efficient friend of his brother-in-law.

 Now they were on holiday in his mother- in- law's caravan and they had come to the local market. Claire had bought spices and herbs to take home for her mum who loved making enormous Thai curries and inviting the whole family round to share them.
 Claire's family were always helping each other out.
 Her dad thought nothing of jumping into the car at 4 0 clock in the morning to fetch one of Claire's  brothers from the airport. He actually enjoyed it. He said it gave him a chance to catch up on their news.

Jack tried to catch Claire's eye to tell her about sam's first word, but she wouldn't look at him.
 She  was swaying in time to the busker's music, her eyes half closed and a blissful look on her face.
 He always loved watching her dance. He often came home from work and found her singing away in the kitchen, dishing up the children's suppers, wriggling her hips and playing to her captivated audience.

 Jack looked at the couple at the table, they had started arguing, she snatched her hand away and her mouth became a thin hard line.
 Jack looked across at Claire, a smile was playing on her lips. Her brown hair and eyes were gleaming gold in the sun. She looked warm and soft and inviting. Jack's heart missed a beat as he thought about what she'd done to him last night in the cramped bed in the caravan, he felt dizzy with desire.
 
'I'd like a Schweppes!' Said the six -year -old loudly.
 
The twins thought this was hilarious and noisily practised saying the strange new word.'ships, sweeps, sheeps!'
The baby clapped his fat little hands together enthusiastically.
The accordion player bowed theatrically as Claire handed him some coins and said 'merci.'
Then she leant forward and said gently to the six -year- old ,' I'll have a Schweppes  Emma and you can try it, but I think you'll be happier with some lemonade.'
At the mention of lemonade, order was restored. The waiter came forward to take their order.
Jack laid his hand on Claire 's thigh and squeezed it.She immediately covered it with hers and stroked his cheek.
'I'm so lucky.' he said,' I love you Claire.'
 


Love birds on a betrothal cup

Monday, 21 July 2014

Stories from the Bar Marché - Laurent

He could always tell who was most likely to leave him a tip. A young father to apologize for the mess the children had made, spilt drinks and chewed sugar sachets, a  middle-aged man with a younger companion to make him into an accomplice, a  lone woman grateful for his male attention. You could tell a lot about people watching them eating and drinking at the little round tables under the plane trees. In the summer months the tourists came. So much was revealed about a couple or a family when they were on holiday, thrown together in constant contact for all hours of the day. The men would sit at the bar waiting while their wives browsed at the market stalls. Some sat patiently reading the paper and when their companion arrived, would stand up and pull out a chair,  admire her purchases of over- priced soap and lavender and then they would smile and raise their glasses to each other . Other men sat gawping at the girls in their skimpy summer clothes, downing two or three glasses of wine and then snap at their wives when they arrived , complaining and sulky. It was the families that interested him most. The fathers taking charge and holding a baby on their knee, giving firm but kind commands and then sitting with their hand on the mother's  knee. He liked to see those little shows of affection, it gave him hope.. How different he would have been with a dad like that, keeping him safe and with a mum that had guided him gently through his childhood.
Looking at all the families and couples that came to the bar he slowly began to understand . Her anger, her resentment, her vicious ways must have come from disappointment. His lazy father that preferred drinking to working, the dingy flat, the cheerless life they lead, must have caused it. The priests that had taken him in with his little brother talked a lot about forgiveness. Seventy times seven, they said. He thought of his little brother, of how much he loved him and of how grateful he was that he had managed to protect him. He would make everything into a game, pulling faces, making jokes, until his little brother's tears turned to giggles. He told him to work hard at school so he could be free, that was the way, not to get in with a bad crowd like he had .His brother was his reason to survive. Every Christmas now, he stayed in Paris with his brother and his lovely family, his wife Sophie and little Maxime and he felt the glow of a great achievement. No-one would ever know how much it had cost him. Oh yes, looking at the families and the couples he could at last understand his mother. But he wasn't ready to forgive her yet.
Le Bar Marché

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Stories from the Bar Marché - Karim

It was market day at the lively small town near the French Mediterranean coast. The tourists crowded round the market stalls looking for presents to take home or a pretty sundress, maybe they'd take the delicious Paella being cooked in vast pans back to their campsites and strings of garlic to hang in their kitchens to remind them of the warm sun during the Winter.

Laurent was writing the daily specials on a blackboard as Karim arrived: Omelette and Salade Niçoise and then Salted caramel ice cream the latest favourite.
The pungent smell of the spices from the stall next to the Bar Marché always took Karim back to his childhood.
 The tourists pointed to the colourful display trying to guess the names. Karim could tell them all with his eyes closed. The yellow saffron, the red pepper, the cardamom, cinnamon, each one brought before him a dish that his grandmother had made. He could see her now, crouched over the fire, stirring and testing until it tasted just right. Then she would wait for the clatter of the camel hoofs and the flapping of the tents and then she would carefully ladle her precious offerings onto the rough earthenware plates.
 He thought of his grandfather and of the tales he told him of the desert.

 'It is not what you are looking at, it is what you see,' the old man would say. 'To some, the desert is just sand, to others it is an everchanging sea of colours and moods. You must respect it. Then you will see its beauty.'

 He would take Karim to the wadi and they would lie down together looking at the stars and telling stories. Karim's favourite was of the princess who got lost in the desert and so the Sand King had thrown handfuls of diamonds into the sky so she could find her way. His grandfather taught him the names of all the stars and pointed to one that was to be Karim's special star, the brightest, to show him the way. 'Always look up at your star Karim' he would say. Apart from his grandparents Karim had no memories of his childhood. Just hiding behind his mother's robes and strong hands picking him up and then being in a strange land. When he met his wife Marika she said that was his heart protecting him so he was free to make a new life.

Laurent the waiter patted him on the shoulder and placed a steaming hot cup of coffee in front of him with a flourish and then added a freshly baked croissant. The two men smiled at each other, they never spoke much but a close observer would have noted the obvious affection between them. Karim was like a guardian angel for Laurent.
 Karim sipped his coffee and breathed deeply, his shoulders relaxing. Market day in Summer was his favourite time at Le Bar Marché. He felt you could tell so much about people from the way they behaved eating and drinking together. He was keenly aware of the dynamics between the couples, the families and the groups of friends. It was such an intimate moment. It was the families that interested him most. He loved to see the fathers enjoying the company of their wives and children, teaching them how to behave at the table, laughing and joking together.

Karim watched as the stallholder carefully measured out a selection of spices for a young blond woman eager to try out a new recipe. He thought of his wife and how she had struggled to reproduce the tastes and flavours of their homeland to keep their identity and remember their roots. Now she could find all she needed in the big supermarkets and local arab market. Sacks of rice and couscous, chick peas, dates and almonds. Restaurants had started serving their dishes and his wife's lamb and couscous was very popular at their own little cafè.
 
Karim caught sight of his daughter Yasmin, coming towards him, gracefully weaving her way through the crowds. He thought she looked like a dancer. A warm glow always came over him when he looked upon her lovely face. She always tried to meet him on market day, she knew where to find him and it was very near the hospital where she worked as a doctor. Laurent came out to greet her and Karim could see the gratitude on his face that glowed whenever he saw Yasmin.

'Hello papa, hello Laurent, what a beautiful day.' Yasmin took Laurent's hand and then bent to kiss her father.
'Oh that coffee smells so good, I feel better already. '

Karim and Laurent never talked about the day that Yasmin had been called to Laurent's house. She was in the ambulance team, a newly qualified doctor. She had shown a maturity beyond her years as she dealt with Laurent's drunken mother and violent father, she had taken Laurent and his brother aside and put her arms around them. She had taken charge of putting Laurent's parents in a clinic where they would be looked after, of asking the local priests to care for Laurent and his brother Jacques. It was too late for Laurent, the damage had been done, but Jacques blossomed and now worked as a dentist in Paris.

Karim thought of the day the teachers had told them that their daughter was very gifted and should try for a scholarship at the university. They hadn't really understood. It was their daughter who in her quiet gentle way had explained. And now here she was, sitting beside him and drawing admiring glances. They ordered their coffee and  sat in companionable silence. His daughter had married a fellow doctor and had a little boy called Nour, just like Karim's grandfather. Karim and Nour liked to lay on the ground together and watch the stars. Nour was more interested in the aeroplanes coming into land at the nearby airport and thought the story of the diamonds was funny. But he liked it when Karim showed him the special star and said 'if you keep looking at your star you will never lose your way'.


Bonne route , buon viaggio

It's time to say goodbye to all our holiday friends. We start with a friend who looks great in a bikini at the age of eighty. What's her secret ? She never walks anywhere if she can help it, far too slow,. She loves magnums and chocolate mousse . So au revoir, à bientôt  e à la prochaine. Next the teenage grandson of our long time friends who are away for the day. Even at his awkward age he has all the charms of a Frenchman and kisses us on the cheek and wishes us Bonne route. A special farewell for the elderly lady who spends her summers here and is kindness itself. On the way out we stop by to see our new friends. They want us to stop for un cafè or a glass of wine, but all we can manage is a glass of water , we are already behind schedule. The beach bar owner, the  young people at the bar , everyone who has made our stay so happy has been thanked and with wishes to come back we are on our way. Then we are stuck in the traffic and looking at all the other cars in the queue. As we edge slowly forward a passo d'uomo - walking pace - looking at my fellow travellers I think of all the hopes and dreams of all the happy reunions and  wonderful memories being built on a summer Sunday afternoon. Smiling at the other  passengers crawling along , thinking of all the happy times with the ones you love , memories stored in your heart .


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Guignol , a French Punch and Judy show

A trip to the seaside in Britain never used to be complete without a Punch and Judy show . The story involved a lot of slapstick, a policeman and a lot of laughter from the children. The French equivalent is called Guignol, a seemingly simple young man who always outwits everyone . The rest of the cast can vary but today we saw one with a Baroness. The story was irrelevant . The children laughed at every flip of the puppets strings, at every tongue twister uttered by the characters. Patatata toc, pomme pomme pomme du lac. Surely nothing is more infectious than children's laughter no matter what language is used. The setting was quite old- fashioned. The scene was timeless, puppets making children laugh and popcorn in the interval . Who hasn't got memories like these?

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Aperitif

The handsome Frenchman raised his glass ' an aperitif is our way of loosening tongues, of preparing the palate , so during our meal we are sure to enjoy stimulating conversation and appreciate our food'.  Karen picked up her tumbler of Gin Fizz and  called out a cheerful 'Santé' to the assembled group. She didn't need her tongue loosened any more, the gin fizz had gone to her head. She'd made a blunder already. She had understood that her host had fallen off the ladder because he had drunk too much wine. When she burst into giggles Joe, her husband had kicked her under the table . The cause of the fall had been the mistral wind and he had hurt himself quite badly . Trop de vin, trop de vent,  sounded similar to her. The aperitif was quite amazing. It was like a meal in itself .  . Small slices of toasted baquette topped with salmon, anchovies,cheese and chorizo, kept being passed round. Olives stuffed with pimento, almonds and anchovies. Karen leaned back in her chair and let the conversation flow around her. She couldn't remember the last time she 'd felt so relaxed.
They had met the French couple and their friends last night watching the Brazil- Germany match at the campsite bar. Maybe because the World cup was coming from Brazil there was a carnival air at the bar. Everyone was squashed together along the tables drinking sangria and eating paella. The match was so lively and enthralling and they were soon exchanging excited glances and shrugging their shoulders in a Gaelic way commiserating with the Brazilians at their humiliating defeat . 7-1 - on home soil . Nobody had guessed the score so the prize draw was put on hold. At the end of the match they had all introduced themselves and their new French friends had invited them to their caravan for an aperitif.Karen loved their French names, rolling them round her tongue and repeating them to herself. Corinne, Delphine, Patrice and Jean-Luc. She really loved everything about France and could understand why so many Brits had made it their home.
When her mother- in - law Barbara had offered to come and stay and look after the children while she and Joe had a holiday on their own in her caravan in France Joe had sounded so eager she had agreed straight away. They hadn't had a proper holiday since their honeymoon nine years ago.Their three children had arrived in quick succession and Joe found it hard to make ends meet with his career as an Art teacher. Karen planned on going back to nursing when the children were older but in the meantime there was no money for holidays and treats. Barbara had moved to live in the caravan when Joe 's dad had left her when Joe started college but now the grandchildren had arrived she was missing them all.
Seven year old Daisy was as good as gold but the five year old George and three year old Ben could be a bit of a handful. Karen had brought a small paddling pool for the garden and some games to keep them all busy.
It seemed strange and exciting just being on their own driving along the French rioads listening to Adele and Coldplay instead of nursery rhymes and not turning round every five minutes to offer drinks and wipe noses. Karen  looked at her husband engrossed in conversation with Corinne. It sounded like they were talking about fish, poisson, but maybe that meant poison. Both she and Joe had turned an alarming shade of red in spite of the Factor fifty . They looked like two lobsters next to the sleek golden tans of the French. She realised that Delphine was handing her a piece of paper. 'Here is the recipe for the Gin Fizz', she said. 'When you get back home you can make it and think of us.' Karen thought that would be a great way to thank her mother- in-law, she would invite her with all her friends for an aperitif.
Corinne's hand was resting on Joe 's arm. Karen jumped up.' It 's been lovely, thank you very much for the aperitif, maybe you could all come to us another evening?' This aperitif seemed to be whetting their appetites in more ways than one. She linked her husband's arm as they walked back to their
 caravan. 'Come on cheri, let me show you my white bits' she said teasingly.




Thursday, 17 July 2014

Plaisir d'offrir

Towards the end of a holiday you might keep a look out for small gifts to take home , something you can't easily get where you live. You often see people at airports with huge sombreros or straw donkeys. My brother took a Terracotta warrior back from China. My Italian friend has got fridge magnets from all over the world and there is hardly any space left to squeeze another one. I' m sure lots  of us have a model of the Eiffel tower or the leaning tower of Pisa stashed in a cupboard. My dad used to bring me back a doll in traditional dress whenever he went away . So I have a dearly treasured Blodwyn, Ivanka, Natasha, Carolina, Ingrid, Juanita, all carefully and lovingly kept. Whenever I go to England I love to take gifts from Italy and then British gifts like Cadbury's chocolate to take back to Italy . All these souvenirs whizzing about all over the world are reminding us that we have all got something to offer, something to give, with love , to bring joy to someone else's everyday existence. I can still taste the delicious sesame biscuits a friend from Damascus gave me, the Turkish delight from Serbia, the caviar from Russia, the Greek biscuits lovingly made by a friend's mother- in - law . So anyway today we saw a little marché Provençale and I told my grandson that I wanted to look for presents to take home for his other grandma and little cousins. I was amazed at how he entered into the spirit of the game. At one stall he stopped and drew me aside. He whispered in my ear that he had seen a bunch of lavander. He assured me that that was exactly what his other Nonna would love as a present . The stall holder told us that it was only decoration , but then she couldn't resist my grandson's  Latin gaze  ' you can have it!' She said. We then bought lavander bags guaranteed to last for three years,  Provençale herbs, lavander flavoured meringues and herb flavoured olive oil and salt . There !! We are now going to take the scents and flavours of Provence home with us and spread them  further with love.