Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Time to Heal

This surely must be the most magical evening of the year. There is a stillness and a feeling of excitement and hope.
Many of us will be watching well loved films that are repeated at this time of year. 'Wonderful Life', 'Love Actually', 'The Grinch', we all will have our favourites. the message is the same whichever film you watch, the importance of love, of family and of friends, of the inherent goodness of mankind. In our hearts we all want to be loved, to love and to be wanted.

Anyone lucky enough to have small children around them will feel their hearts expand and swell as they participate in the wonderful joy of believing in Father Christmas, of preparing the table, of making special cakes, singing songs that make your feet tap, like good old 'Jingle Bells' or 'Rocking Around the Christmas tree.'

Here is my wish for you all, that you will have peace and love in your hearts and enjoy all the festivities with family and friends.

Here is a lovely poem by Laurence Housman (1865 - 1959) which is perfect for reflection on this wondrous eve and a few words from Charles Dickens

O perfect Love, surpassing sight
O Light beyond our ken,
Come down through all the world tonight,
And heal the hearts of men.

Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance.

Charles Dickens

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Hidden Treasure

For people like me that weren't always listening to the teacher or had a limited education, the British system meant that after the age of sixteen you only really study three subjects which in my case were chosen at random and with no great success, the upside of this lack of study is that the world is full of wonder. In Spring the miracle of bulbs that have been dry and brown all winter, when they bloom and blossom in a myriad of colours I am totally in awe. The same in Autumn when the leaves turn such stunning shades of gold, russet, brown, yellow. I am in awe. The sight of a beautiful display of flowers that appear in a pot that I had left in a corner, thinking they were dried up and useless and I really should throw them away, all these things are a constant form of delight and wonder. the sun that moves across the sky with the changing seasons and goes to Australia when it's time for us to go home, never loses its appeal and fascination. the seas and oceans that don't drop of the Earth in a great whoosh. Somewhere in the depths of my head I sort of know the scientific explanations for all these things but they are still everyday miracles for me.

The biggest most wonderful place where miracles happen, where there is real treasure to be found, where shining secrets are kept is the human heart.
No greater way is this mystery displayed than in the heart of a child.
We all know that we can't make people love us, no matter how hard we try, it has to come from them.
We might gain their approval but we know this is different from their affection. So when a small child runs towards you with arms wide open and love shining from their face our own hearts expand and swell in gratitude and joy.

So where is all this waffle leading you might be thinking. Playing with a child is what set off this train of thought.
The other day I was asked many questions by a small child, one that doesn't go to school yet and doesn't know how write apart from the names of the ones she loves.
She set up a little office with a desk and a telephone and everyone was ordered to enter her workplace and she would fill in a questionnaire.
As I answered her questions she bent over a piece of paper, looking thoughtful and with pen to paper wrote my answers.
The questions were all about the secret of happiness, about what makes people happy.
She knows that already, she's known it since she was born, there is no doubt at all about the secret of happiness. It's not a secret really, it's all on the paper below.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

A Recipe from a friend

'Torta salata'  or savoury flan, or quiche, is very popular in Italy. Everyone has their favourite filling, mine is spinach and cheese and I have given the recipe here on my blog. all you need to do is have a roll of ready-made puff pastry in the fridge and you can a make a quick and easy supper that suits everybody.
Yesterday a friend of mine told me she had discovered a new recipe for 'Torta Salata' that it was delicious and I should try it at once. It sounded nice and Autumnal so I went ot get the necessary ingredients straight away.
Here it is

Paola's Torta Salata for Autumn

1 pear, peeled and cored and cut into four slices
2 Belgian endives
300g green cheese like gorgonzola.
3 tablespoons of cream
i packet of ready-made puff pastry
walnuts to scatter

Set the oven to 180
Line a pie dish with the puff pastry and put it in the oven while you prepare the filling
Gently heat the cream and green cheese in a small saucepan until you have a spreading consistency.
Wash and dry the Belgian endives and cut into quarters,
Take the pie dish out of the oven and pour the cheese mixture over the base.
Arrange the endives  and pear slices in a star shape.

bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Scatter over the walnuts and bake for another 5 minutes.

this torta salata is best warm.

Hope you like it

Ready to go

Add caption

Friday, 1 September 2017

Whatever the Weather

The British have always had a reputation for being obsessed by the weather. It's one of our favourite topics of conversation. Well I can tell you that  now so many of us have smart phones, Italians are too. Everyone is constantly checking the weather forecast and planning their lives accordingly.
We had been invited to an end of summer pool party and everyone has been looking forward to it for months, it's an annual event. then two days ago we were told that it is postponed to next year because of the forecast on the host's phone.

This would never have happened once, a long time ago, in my youth. We never trusted the weather forecast and just carried on regardless.

We sang songs that went like this.

'Here we all are, happy as can be
All good friends and jolly good company.
Never mind the weather, never mind the rain,
As long as we're together..
Whoops she goes again.'

We always had a wet plan and a dry plan.

We had tongue twisters like this

Whether the weather be hot
or whether the weather be cold
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.

The phrase 'Rain stops play' was used for sporting events when the weather was so bad there was no choice, but the play started whatever the sky looked like and however dark the clouds were.
Only in the last few years has Wimbledon given in to having a sliding roof to make sure that the matches can carry on, and only over the Centre Court.

Anyway just to let you know the weather forecast on the phone has changed and it looks like it won't rain after all, but the pool party is still postponed for another year.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Fun Philosophy

Over a year ago the British voted to leave the European Union and not a day goes by without it being somewhere in the news. Whatever your thoughts on the matter you can't have missed all the debates and questions that appear daily.
The British have been accused of 'wanting their cake and eating it' and today they were arguing about paying for 'everything including the kitchen sink.'
This reminded me of how often my mum and dad used these one liners to express their opinions.
Maybe they say a lot about a nation. British people will often say about something they are not sure about, 'it's not really my cup of tea.' When translated into another language these one line philosophies could sound quite funny.

My earliest memories involve hearing my parents talk to each other using a variety of these expressions. I would be playing with my dolls and their voices would quietly drift around me, comforting and reassuring with their soft tones.

'Old Fred has bitten off more than he can chew.'
'Well Betty always did have a bee in her bonnet about that .'
'It's the pot calling the kettle black really.'
'Well you know what they say about the early worm.'
'Don't beat about the bush and tell me what's the matter.'
'Ah, the other man's grass is always greener.'
'John's over the moon about his new job.'
'I think you're barking up the wrong tree.'

And so on, a seemingly endless supply of phrases to express in a calm way what was going on around them.

Their favourite ones to say to me while growing up were.-

'you can't put old heads on young shoulders'
'familiarity breeds contempt.'
'Actions speak louder than words'.
'Two wrongs don't make a right.
"Practice makes perfect.'
'Don't bite off more than you can chew.'
'Look before you leap.'
'Walls have ears'
'Keep wise counsel.'

Back to Brexit and having your cake and eating it, my mum and dad would say that too, to mean you can't have everything. It seemed it a bit strange because why would you have a cake and not want to eat it? It would go stale.
As for the kitchen sink one in the paper today, that would be used if we were going on holiday and there was too much luggage.

Just one final one tat is always good to remember, 'where there's a will, there's a way.'

Barking up the wrong day, a gentle reminder that you might just have got it wrong

Sunday, 6 August 2017

An Aperitif for August

Many people of my age remember being left in the car outside a pub while their dad went in to have a drink with his mates. It was a happy occasion, we enjoyed being left in the car watching the door of the pub. After a few minutes dad would come out bearing aloft bottles of lemonade and packets of crisps.  Tucked inside the packet of crisps was a small, blue, paper sachet of salt. We would untwist the paper and pour the salt inside the bag and give it a good shake. The lemonade was so delicious I couldn't understand why my dad didn't want it too,
Many aperitifs are a bit like that lemonade, thirst quenching and fruity. Here's the catch though, they often contain alcohol.
You have to be careful. One hot English summers day an Italian friend of mine drank quickly two huge glasses of Pimms, not knowing that it was alcoholic, it just tasted delicious and she was thirsty. Of course after a few minutes she had to go and lie down.

It's a funny thing about alcohol. Cigarette packets are plastered with dire warnings that should put you off smoking forever. We are told only to drink in moderation, women less than men because of something different about the liver, and not to drink and drive. That's it. Nothing on the bottle about how it loosens your tongue, dissolves your inhibitions and makes you say things that you regret. So you might find yourself this summer drinking what seems like fruit juice and all of a sudden your crying about.. Brexit, the dog you lost when you were ten, the plight of total strangers, how you miss your mum and dad, etc.

I'm going to give you a recipe for an aperitif which is perfect for a summer evening but you have to be careful, tell everyone what is in it.

It is called GRAZIE, which means thank you in Italian.


for one person
4cl gin
2cl sugar water, dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in hot water and let cool
10cl grapefruit juice
a few basil leaves
2 ice cubes

Simply multiply the ingredients by how many people

Wash and dry the basil leaves and place in a cold jug. Put in the fridge.
Mix together the gin, sugar water and grapefruit juice and then pour into the jug.
Add the ice cubes and then if you prefer you can pass through a sieve before serving. The flavour of the basil and the grapefruit juice is delicious.
Warn your guests that there is gin.

All ready to go

Believe me it's delicious

What can be more cheerful than an aperitif at sunset in the summer

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Always Room for one more

My grandmother had six children and lots of grandchildren. I was almost the youngest. Sadly I wasn't very old when she passed on, only eight, but I remember her very well. I haven't got lots of tales to tell about her but I know she loved me a lot and I loved her.
Every school concert, ballet show, play or whatever, she was there. I saw a sea of faces and in the middle she was there, waving, her face glowing, no matter that I was the most useless and untalented on the stage, she gave me a standing ovation. For her, I was the star of the show. She and my mum, together, their faces alight, their hands clapping, their arms waving, for me.

My mum told me that every time a new grandchild was on the way my grandmother would say, 'There's always room for one more.' She meant that there was always enough love in her heart for another little baby.
This is one of the most magical, wonderful mysteries of all, how our hearts can expand endlessly.
Well I've got someone new to love. A very small bundle of joy. Brand new. He might be small but he has already filled our lives. All the love in the world is there for him.
I'll just tell you this too, he might be small but can do very impressive burbs.

Looking at this brand new baby I would like to have a magic wand, to protect him, to make him strong and healthy and bring happiness to all who meet him on his way through life.

The night he was born there was a beautiful moon, it was very hot, music was floating through the air from a nearby park.

It seemed perfect for a new little family.
My wish for you, May you be happy always, and may a cup of tea be able to make everything better

The evening you arrived, welcome little one

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

What to Eat

Not a day goes by without some fresh piece of advice appearing in newspapers or being passed round by word of mouth about what is good for you to eat, how to lose weight, the powers of superfoods, whether or not to be a vegan, a vegetarian, a pescatarian.

It used to be so easy.

All you had to do was have three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. At each meal you were meant to have some protein, carbohydrates and fats. You should include lots of vegetables, many greens to clear your blood, carrots for your eyesight, peas and beans to keep you healthy. Fruit could be eaten between meals or made into a dessert. That sums up what my mum taught me.

We knew we needed vitamin c, because sailors who didn't have fresh food and spent a long time on voyages got scurvy.
We knew that potatoes, bread and rice were starch and to have some with every meal.
We knew we should have a little bit of everything and never too much of anything, especially prunes.
We knew we needed milk to have strong teeth and bones and that anything burnt was bad for you.
We knew that living in England where there wasn't so much sun meant we needed to take vitamin D or we might get rickets and every day we took haliborange which had Vitamin AD and C.
We knew our skin shouldn't go red in the sun.
We knew that sugar rotted our teeth.
We knew we shouldn't eat leftovers or food that had been lying around uncovered.
We knew that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

All this information was part of our everyday life in the fifties.
It seemed sensible, I never met anyone with scurvy or rickets.

Every day, though as I was saying we are told of things that are bad for us, or good for us.
Last week I read that burnt toast is bad for us, after a survey and tests were done. But I thought we knew that, our mothers certainly did, because any burnt smell wafting through the house was immediately followed by furious scraping noises as the burnt bits were taken off.
Then I read about a girl who had a disease caused by mercury poisoning and reading the article that she had been eaten a whole can of tuna fish every day for years.
Whole pages of magazines and newspapers are taken up with how sugar is toxic, sausages and bacon are full of poisonous substances.
One day coffee is good for you, then it's bad. Too much tea depletes you of iron, too much iron is bad for you.
It used to be five-a day and now it's seven. There must be a ratio of 3 vegetables to one fruit and they must all be different colours.

No wonder that we are a bit confused.
So let's go back to our mums' original advice, a little bit of everything.

Here are a few basic rules,
Good eating starts with good shopping, so make sure you plan a few meals and write a list before you shop.

You can have a few treats, maybe one a day, which have little or no nutritional value but add to the fun.

chocolate bars
take-away meals
alcoholic drinks
Restaurant meals
Biscuits and cakes
cappuccinos etc

Whatever takes your fancy.

Healthy snacks are nuts, raisins, fruit,yoghurts

Of course we all know people who break all the rules and are never ill and will hopefully have a long and healthy life.
There are also people who eat healthy food all the time but have high cholesterol, etc.
So once in a while have a blood test or something to make sure all is well.
Life style changes that doctors suggest you make are usually about cutting back on the treats mentioned above or walking more or sleeping more.
Don't forget your mental health too, eat foods Vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, iron and folate and stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Wheatgerm, leafy green vegetables, peas, oily fish, nuts and seeds, bananas and oats,
lettuce, celery, fruit and vegetables will all help. the bananas between meals on their own if you want to raise your mood, don't know why but it's just something else my mu used to say.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Music to brighten your life.

One of my fellow bloggers wrote a post about the soundtrack to her life and asked anyone who wanted to join in.

I knew straight away that she was younger than me because she said her parents listened to the Beatles.

We' ve all got a soundtrack to our lives, especially the early years, and I know some people who can only listen to Sixties music. We get stuck in a time warp with our music, maybe because the music of our youth stirs all our bright, enthusiastic, exciting,  romantic, hopeful emotions and ideals. The first beats of our favourite music from our youth and we are young again. We might twirl around the house, dancing with our eyes closed and remembering the excitement and anticipation of all that we hoped was to come. Just put on some Tamla Motown and I can smell Brut, Charlie, Old Spice, the husky voice of Rod Stewart and I'm in the pub peering through the mists caused by cigarette smoke and thinking how wonderful it was to have friends, for it to be a Friday night and the whole weekend ahead.

So here's my soundtrack, so far, just as it comes, from the depth of my heart,

My first memories of music are entwined with my sweet memories of my precious mum. Her voice was a golden thread through my early years, she would sit beside me singing softly or hold my hand and twirl me round. She had a whole host of bedtime songs,

Have you seen the Muffin man?
Poly Wolly Doodle
There is a Tavern in the town
Molly Malone
Goodnight Ladies
to name but a few, it probably took a long time for me to drop off, she always ended with my favourite
The Mountains of Mourne, sweep down to the Sea. if you would like to listen to this then see comments where Derval and posted a link

Next came Helen Shapiro and 'walking Back to Happiness. My  brother and I were facinated by the courting couples, we called them lovers, who would kiss and hug in our local park, the girls wore tight skirts and we invented the Waggle Bottom dance, marching up and down singing Helen Shapiro's song at the tope of our voices. We loved all the Fifties rock and roll, anything that would make our feet tap and have us dancing and shaking all over the place. This music held all the exciting promise of being grown up, nit that we were in a hurry because we were very happy climbing trees and scraping our knees.
My all time favourite was Brian Poole and The Tremeloes ' Do you love me?' Closely followed a while later by Hey Mr Tambourine Man - The Byrds version.

Most Saturday mornings I would go my auntie's and be allowed to stack up all my cousins' records and I learned all the words to 'I wanna be Bobby'girl,' 'James, James Hold the ladder steady,' and of course Elvis.

We didn't have a dishwasher then and took turns washing and drying up.
Whenever I hadn't washed something properly my auntie would hand it back with a smile, singing
'Return to Sender..'
Then there was Adam Faith and Cliff Richard, for my friend and I a real dilemma to decide which one we would like to marry.
Oh what magical musical days.

One day when my brother and I were about 11 and 9, my dad brought us home an LP each as a present, he was like that, kind and generous. My brother being older had first choice, he chose 'Billy J.Kramer and the Dakotas, I was left with 'The Beatles'!! Yes, can you believe it? No-one had heard of them then. It didn't take long though, the rest is history.

I soon learned all the words to every song on that LP. That was the start of my love affair with the early Beatles songs. My whole existence was influenced by their songs of love, hope and joy. The Beatles told us young girls that romantic love exists with a vengeance, I want to hold your hand, Till there was you, If I fell, And I love her, She loves You, Please, Please Me.' The secret of a happy life was there in all these songs, you just had to find someone to love and then look after each other. It was just what I had hoped for and dreamed of.
 Even now when I listen to 'I feel Fine', my heart skips a beat, I feel a flutter of excitement and joy and remember how easily I twisted away at the Primary School Christmas Party. My knees never let me down then.

The Beatles were soon joined by The Rolling Stones in our record collection.
They were slightly less straight forward, less innocent, more sensual. As Tears go By, Satisfaction, and the daring Lets Spend the Night Together, which made me blush and squirm if my dad was present.
That was the moment when my parents taste in music parted company with ours.
The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, they were all considered a horrible noise. They had to compete with Acker Bilk and Mantovani on Sunday lunchtimes. Acker Bilk usually won.

Then came the era of gatherings, parties, dancing in village halls. Rod Stewart, Elton John, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, they all that made us get up and dance and made us feel happy.

Then I started to fall in love and have boyfriends and were given records as presents, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, Country Joe and the Fish, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, many songs had a message that I still hold close to my heart.

It's all heady stuff this sound track, it's reminded me of when I went o see Forrest Gump. I came out of the cinema with my face soaked in tears. I had just heard the soundtrack of my youth. Nostalgia and homesickness for the days when you go home to your mum, when you can go out in the evening and be a bit daring and loud but there's always mum and dad like a cushion, like a haven, waiting for you.

Fast forward to my children's early years and there is a blur, nursery rhymes, Disney songs, interspersed with Blondie, the Bangles, Sting, George Michael, but I wasn't so involved as before because I had responsibilities. I might be walking on sunshine and driving round the country lanes belting out Close your eyes, give me your hand, but it wasn't really my music, it was another generation's.
 If I ever wanted to remember who I was, where I'd come from, I'd listen to Rod, the Beatles and Neil Young and be back, in harmony again.

Then came the years when I enjoyed listening to my childrens teenage music, Jon Bon Jovi, Blur, Oasis, The Cure, the Cranberries, Counting Crows, Red hot chilly Peppers, The Ramones, I loved the soundtrack to their youth. Again, it was more their soundtrack than mine.

Then last week I was watching the Eurovision Song Contest with my grandchildren. It was Saturday night and we were having a bit of a party, popcorn and fizzy drinks, while mummy and daddy were out.
 When the Italian entry came on, I watched in amazement as they leapt up, singing and dancing at the top of their voices
There, in their little faces,was the same ecstatic joy, the same excitement, the same love of life that my brother and I had dancing to Helen Shapiro, exactly the same.
They loved the Italian entry, they loved the singer, they want him to come and see us, he's Italian like them, they loved him.
That's when I felt it, they were on their way.
They have started the soundtrack to their young years.

My first LP

The long and winding road? Once there was a way to get back home again ? Beatles lovers will know

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Special evening in Venice

Last week I had an unexpected treat.
 I went to see an exhibition in Venice.
 It was part of the Biennale and in the Palazzo Mora, European Cultural centre and the title of the exhibition was Personal Structures open borders.

The Palazzo Mora is along a busy thoroughfare and you know you've gone too far when you can smell the perfume from the Lush shop.
The moment you step through the gates of the Palazzo you feel you could be entering a magic kingdom. Scents from the jasmine bushes waft around you on the warm spring air. You are no longer on a busy street passing stalls of trinkets and coffee bars but in a garden, in Venice, on an evening in May and you sense the excitement and anticipation that often surrounds Art exhibitions.

A pretty girl that could have stepped out of a painting by Gauguin is offering cup cakes, yes cupcakes! Chocolate sponge topped with whipped cream and sugar flowers like the one in her hair, reminding her of her South sea island home. There is Prosecco too, we are in Venice after all, a trio of musicians start to play softly by your side and the party has begun.

The stairs leading up into the Palazzo are lined with bags containing the catalogue of the exhibition. We looked straight away for our friend's exhibit and there she was on page 76, Sophie Dickens.

 The journey to find her statue took us through a labyrinth of rooms, terraces, stairways, cubby holes, all filled with art works, covering a whole range of topics from world strife, to children's playgrounds. Everything was beautifully and lovingly displayed and there was something for every taste.

What is Art after all? We just have to give small children some sheets of paper and coloured pencils, dough or modelling clay and they will all be heads down, producing works of art. To do this they will use their imaginations and express their feelings, then if you are lucky you will be offered the gift of their creativity.
The sun, bright yellow and round will usually sit in the top right hand corner, trees and flowers will abound, a little house with a door, maybe there will be lots and lots of hearts and your name, and maybe a declaration of love.

Give children a lump of dough and they will soon be rolling away, cutting out shapes and creating works of art, biscuits, animals, all manner of shapes and sizes.

Small children hold the secret to the meaning of art, producing or creating something using your feelings, emotions and senses that will then be a gift, something we can all enjoy and that will make us think, that will connect us in some way.
 That is what artists want us to do, they want us to enjoy their work and they want it to make us think, to enlarge our hearts and enrich our souls and to unite us, make us feel less alone.

Sophie Dickens statue does just this. She has put her heart and soul into her work, using wood and bronze. We can see her passion for her work, for her life companion and the deep bond between them.
Sophie gave her statue the title 'Together, Forever', but she is happy for anyone to interpret it as they wish.

The whole exhibition at the Palazzo Mora is uplifting and stimulating. The Palazzo itself is harmonious and interesting. As you wander through the rooms and duck your head on the beams, peer over the edge of the many small terraces, you might wonder what it would have been like to have lived here, when Venice was a ballroom, life was a constant party, and on a warm, balmy spring evening in May you would have listened to a discrete trio of musicians, sipped at a glass of wine, admired the beautiful architecture created by man and watched the sun go down over your beloved city.

Desert Island cupcakes, decorated with exotic flowers

Flowers for cupcakes and hair

We all need a hand

Follow the catelogues

Interesting and cheerful

Skate board girls of Kabul, moving and heartbreaking

An oasis of cupcakes, Prosecco, scents of jasmine and harmonious melodies

Sophie Dickens in wood and bronze, Together Forever

Here she is !!

What's Mother Teresa doing on that balcony? It's Art of  course

Intriguing views

Hold hands and stick together, it's better that way

All the fun of the fair

Warm, balmy nights in Venice, an everlasting love story

Sophie Dickens' book

The exhibition is on from May till November

Saturday, 13 May 2017

A Dream in a Draw

Many people I know have what they refer to as a 'Bucket List', this comes from the English expression, 'To kick the bucket, ' and it's probably not to dwell on the origin of this expression, let's say it just means things you want to do before you can't do them any longer.
In Italian there is, unsurprisingly, a more romantic way of expressing the things you long to do and that is ' Un sogno nel cassetto.'  A dream in a draw.

Someone once said 'Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it', which reminds me of a bedtime story that made me giggle.
A  poor man had been sent by his wife to look for some food and while he was walking along the road he helps a fairy in difficulty (or something like that) and to thank him she grants him three wishes.

The man is so excited, and hungry, he immediately wished for a large sausage. He rushes back home to tell his wife and share the sausage.
Her reaction is not what he expected.

'You stupid man, you should have wish for gold, I wish that sausage was stuck on your nose.'
The sausage shot off the table and attached itself to the poor man's nose.
yes, you've guessed it, they had to use the third wish to get the sausage off his nose.

So, do people what you wish for

Whether you've got a dream in a draw or a bucket list though, do realize that the most important thing in our lives is our relationship with other people, to try to evaluate and improve yourself and every so often ask yourself these questions,
Do I love enough?
Do I laugh enough?
Do I make a difference?

Close yoour eyes and make a wish upon a star

A dream in a draw

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Virtually Friends

For a long time I considered modern technology as a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, people that I was already fond of. Facebook, what's app, Face time are wonderful for enriching relationships and strengthening bonds that already exist.

Something unexpected has happened now though and I have grown fond of fellow bloggers, fellow members of various groups with common interests. I am fond of people that I have never met, I have warmed to many people just through their writing, the photos they share, the views they express, their interests, passions and enthusiasm.

When I was a child we had pen-pals. At school we were given addresses of children our age in far off lands and then we would write to them saying what we liked doing, how old we were, if we had a dog, what music we liked. Some of these pen friends carried on corresponding for years, sometimes there would even be an exchange.  So people reaching out to each other to make the world a friendlier place is nothing new.

A friend of mine has three children, one is in Japan, one is in Germany and one is still at home. When I asked her if they missed each other, if they suffered from homesickness or nostalgia, she thought for a moment and then told me that in her opinion young people today don't know what it feels like to miss someone the way we did. they don't have that wrenching, tearing feeling when they have to part with their loved ones.
They don't experience these feelings because no sooner are they out of sight than they can be on what's app or Facebook, sending photos of what they're doing. Never feeling out of touch, never feeling left out and unwanted. They can skype the minute they get home and sit and chat with a cup of coffee.

Homesickness is terrible, it's like a chronic illness, you have to deal with it, to accept it as a part of your life and develop strategies to cope with it. The pain I felt when leaving my parents was akin to agony, like being stabbed in my heart, but you have to carry on, putting on a brave face, accepting.
It can only be a good thing that homesickness is a thing of the past.

Going back to my virtual friends, you who I have never met, yet you have comforted and warmed me, helped me learn about different ways of life, taste in music, films, books, dealing with problems, letting off steam, oh so many ways. Thank you to all my fellow bloggers, I love reading your blogs. thank you to all the members of the various groups I belong to, you have all enriched my life.

The sort of photo we collected from Boots before smart phones

we can keep in touch the moment we leave loved ones, no time to feel the wrench

How to live happily ever after

My six year old grandson asked me to refresh his memory about the story of The Little Mermaid. It's never been in his top ten favourite stories, being more interested in Cars, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, but he was playing in the bath and had a little boat with Eric and Ariel. .
As I started telling him the story, the Disney version where the Little Mermaid gets legs, we'd got to the part where the witch of the sea was trying to stop Eric falling in love with Ariel, he beseeched me to get quickly to the part where they happily ever after.
For what seemed like years, as a child, every story I liked started with 'Once upon a time' and ended with '..and they all lived happily ever after.'
I even knew how to say 'Once upon a time' in Latin, Olim erat.

As we get older we learn that the happily ever after bit is just the beginning. That's when things get tough. they shouldn't though should they? There we are, having chosen each other, we are lucky enough to be able to do that.

In the last fifty years society has swept away so many taboos. For my generation living together without having got married was considered a terrible thing to do. Divorce and separation could make people feel social outcasts. Nowadays things have changed drastically.
No-one I'm sure would want to go back in time here. who would ever want to waste their life in a loveless marriage? My favourite comment about divorce is from an Adrian Mole book by Sue Townsend, and I might have said this before, Burt Baxter the elderly man that Adrian looks after tells Adrian he is against divorce, the reason being that he had thirty years of misery and doesn't see why anyone else should get away with it.

Let's get back to the happily ever after bit. The stories that end on this hopeful note have usually involved a lot of hardship, the couple that end up united and ready to live together in total harmony have always been put to the test, they have earned each other. Just think of Snow White, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel and of course, The Little Mermaid. They all suffered before they could have their own true love all to themselves. They all realized before they got married that no-one else would do.

Now if you love someone they usually have a family of origin, this family is very important, it is what made that person who they are. So the person you love has arguably become what they are largely due to the family they came from.

I will dedicate this post to all my readers who have a wedding anniversary in May, you know who you are.
Wishing you all a very happy ever after, always and forever.
As Eddie Cochran sings, it's very simple really.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Perfect Woods

We all must have places where we feel the perfection of nature, that make us feel one with the world and all its beauty.
For some it might be by the sea, strolling along a vast sandy beach and listening to the music of the waves, for others ,wide open spaces with stunning views as far as the eye can see, or climbing to the top of a hill or mountain peak and feeling on top of the world, or striding through the jungle admiring the bright colours and lush vegetation, or feeling at one while roaming the desert sands.
 All over the world there are places where people have their roots or simply feel they are at peace with the world. So many places are filled with such beauty that your heart can ache with emotion.

For me, this happens in a beech wood. It's where I have my roots. There is magic for me standing in a beech wood, listening to the rustling of the little creatures, the melody of the bird song, the unexpected sight of a deer shyly moving among the trees, the agile leap of a squirrel, the sound of children playing nearby.
Beech woods are majestic and stunning with every season that passes, but it is in spring that they are perfect, holding the promise of summer, the sunlight piercing the foliage, the leaves bright and green, fresh and new, and the carpets of bluebells, as blue as the sea, making you gasp in wonder.
My mum and I would go and cut a few branches of beech  and pick a handful of bluebells, take them home and arrange them in a terracotta vase that she brought back from her honeymoon, clutching the vase and my father on the back of a motorbike.
Once you would see people emerging from the beech woods carrying enormous bunches of bluebells, but now it is not only frowned upon, but really they only last a few days once picked but in the woods they give pleasure for over two weeks.

This verse from William Blake (1757 - 1827) seems very appropriate for the beech woods in spring, it is called The Laughing Song

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by
When the air does laugh with our merry wit
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it..

Monday, 17 April 2017

Wild About Flowers

My brother and I  used to have Eye-spy books. He had airplanes, minerals, butterflies, trains and cars, I had wild flowers and birds. We would clutch these books in our rather grubby hands and try to spot as many as we could as we roamed around the common, the countryside or the town where we lived.
My favourite book was the wild flowers and the joy they give has accompanied me through the years.
To look at wild flowers, in a hedgerow, in a wind swept field is an everlasting pleasure. Butterflies and bees think so too, there they are hovering and buzzing, busy keeping up the wonderful, everlasting thrill of tasks that Nature has given them to do.
Then there is the variety of leaves, all the different shapes, all the different shades of green.
Go on a nature walk today and feel at one with the activity going on around you.
What a wonderful shape for a leaf

Wild honeysuckle



Red Admiral butterfly on hawthorn

Wild strawberries

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