Sunday, September 25, 2016

A mini sort of bump

So ... I'm going in shopping this morning. I get in the car and drive down our little bit of road. A car reverses out from one of the neighbouring houses and into Mini.

The other driver and I both get out and she says, 'I'm sorry. Don't worry, I'll get it sorted but my husband's away at the moment. But don't worry. You know where I live.' Then she gets back into the car and I get back into my car and we drive off. (I am reminded of the time a car drove into me in the car park when I worked at DVLC. Instead of stopping and challenging  the driver of the other car I drove away. When I got back to the office the men I worked with shouted at me for not acting. 'What sort of car was it?' they asked. 'A grey one ...) 

Then I decide I had better tell Husband before going shopping so drive back. 
'The lady down the road just drove into me.' 
He groans. 'How did that happen?'
Then he comes out, examines the damage, takes photos and generally acts like an insurance assessor. Finally he says, 'Okay, you can go shopping now,' then as he starts to walk away I shout after him, 'I'm fine, thank you for asking.'

His excuse is that he could see I was absolutely fine. My feeling is that his first question should have been, 'Are you all right?' not 'How did that happen?'

But I'm not going to labour the point too much as I have yet to get insurance details from the other driver as I'm being a bit of a wimp about it. (Note to self: is it too late to take assertiveness classes?)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Getting old

I can think of only one possible benefit of losing my mind: I'd no longer worry about misplaced apostrophes.

Knowing my brain however it would probably be the one thing that would remain. I'd be forever breaking out of my nursing home and going on felt pen rampages.

This has been brought on because I've just been to visit my great-aunt. She's always been my role model: this is how I want to be when I'm 95. Suddenly, in what seems to be a couple of months, she's deteriorated. She's hardly there any more. Just a shrunken pained shell.

Depressed. Need chocolate.

A prayer for my bambino

Having written a prayer for the first two of my first-born grandchildren it was only right that I should write one for my little Italian baby.

A prayer for my bambino
You are a child of the world, a child born out of and into love. The journal of your life is yet to be written, blank pages for you to write your own story. And it will be an adventure story.

I pray that your life will be long and filled with love. I pray that you will grow strong and healthy in body and spirit. I pray that you will find delight in the ordinary and excitement in the extraordinary.

You can read the rest of it here.

P.S. Do you like my wonderful artwork?!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

BT do it again!

My email sender started playing up before we went on holiday. I thought perhaps a little break was all it needed and it would be fine when we came back. It wasn't.

Two BT experts couldn't resolve it and, more crucially, neither could Husband. I don't know what BT did in the end but they fixed it after thinking about it for 48 hours. It's remarkable the joy I feel in being able to send emails again! So quickly we become dependent on all this modern technology!

Anyway in all the excitement of being able to send I've sent off another submission to a literary agent. And that actually is a huge benefit of the internet: not having to print out loads of pages, package them up, take them to the Post Office, and pay large sums of money for postage. It's much simpler to be rejected these days. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Not without thorough research

So we're in the car going to Mothercare to look at baby seats. I say, 'Goody, I can get a stair gate at the same time.' (To stop GrandDaughter2 escaping up the stairs at every opportunity.)
'No, you can't,' says Husband.
'Why not?'
'You have to research it first. Find out which is the best one.'
'For goodness sake, it's only a stair gate. How complicated can it be?'
'Look what happened when you rushed out and bought a scales without first researching it.' (What happened was that, unlike our previous scales, this one doesn't store a record of your weight so you have to remember it from week to week.)

I mutter under my breath.

After a long and complicated discussion with not one but two store assistants we're no closer to choosing a car seat/pushchair than we were before. In spite of Husband's extremely time-consuming and thorough research.

I wander off to look for stair gates. Turns out I was right: it is very simple. You can have the permanent sort that you have to screw into the wall or a pressure-fit one, which is the one we need. 
'You're not going to let me buy it, are you?' I ask.
'No,' says Husband. 'We have to research it first.'

So tomorrow he's going to be the one chasing GrandDaughter2 every time she runs upstairs.

Is what you're standing on bad for the environment?

With a son who started the #freefromplastic campaign I can't help but be aware of the dangers posed to our environment by man-made materials; I thought I was safe though when it came to considering the ground that I stand on. It seems not.

I have a new project. I began a few weeks before we went on holiday and it's to clear/improve that bit of garden at the front of our front garden. It was intended to have a sort of informal look but turned into jungle-style. 

I forgot to take a photo before I began but this was at an early stage of the project.
And this was a bit later. Or possibly the same time but a different angle ...

Anyway progress is slow especially as weeds began to take over again as soon as my back was turned  - but I have plans. Trouble is that my plans tend to be a bit like Baldrick's with about as much success.

I had originally intended to put down a mixture of paving stones and pebbles but really I think grass would be nicer. Husband isn't so keen on that idea though. Our garden isn't huge but still he already has seven individual patches of grass that he has to mow, hence his reluctance to add another. Although I think he'll hardly notice one more ...

So far so good except the beds that already exist sort of slope down into the earth where the grass/paving stones will be and at the side dropping down to the steps. So I've decided that I need to do some stone walling as we have in the rest of the garden. Which means we need stones.

Husband's plan, that he pick one up in the woods each time he walks George, while economic, is possibly unnecessarily labour-intensive - and slow. Not to mention probably illegal and ... well, I'll tell you in a minute.

The Gower peninsula is mostly carboniferous limestone so working on the assumption that the original flower-bed walls and paths were probably  made of that I tootled off to the local builders' merchants yesterday to look for some. And found none. Turns out the nearest store selling stones is about 20 miles away. But while googling for stores I made a discovery, which although  it's taking me a long time to get there, is the whole point of this post.

Did you know that water-worn limestone hosts its own ecosystem and that the human habit of using said stones for garden walls and paths is damaging the fragile balance of man and nature? I have to check that the limestone being sold is deep-quarried. Oh for goodness sake.

I feel guilty enough as it is for all the plastic bottles in my home and I recycle with a fanatic's enthusiasm. Now I have to make sure the stones in the garden are eco-friendly.

Life was so much simpler in the old days. When I swam in the polluted sea without a care in the world ...

Saturday, September 17, 2016

101 ways to serve a tromboncino (actually 3)

Nuora's father is a keen gardener and he gave us a tromboncino he'd grown to bring home with us. That's a funny-shaped squash to you and me.
So we started with squash soup.

Then it was smoked pancetta and squash risotto.

 And finally Moroccan mince stuffed squash.
Encouraged by the almost-success of my invention of apple and blackberry ripple cake I 'adapted' a recipe from a magazine. They were meant to be stuffed tomatoes but I figured the same principle would work for squash. But then the mince looked a bit boring the way they suggested so I added a few extras. And then because everything is improved with cheese I popped in a layer of cheese (left-over burger slices) under the sweet potato topping. 

I was hoping to serve it neatly sliced but it sort of fell apart when I tried to cut it but it still tasted jolly nice.

I didn't faint

You know that if I begin a story about me trying to climb up a muddy bank, cross a river or circumnavigate brambly bushes it's going to end badly. But I'm not sure why that is.

In most aspects of my life I lack confidence and need frequent reassurance and regular encouragement but when it comes to doing stupid things in the woods I am suddenly full of misplaced certainty that I can do this.

Maybe it's because I'm in the woods and nobody is going to see me and, anyway, if I fail it only means wet/muddy/ripped clothing, which is easily remedied. Except the ripped. They stay ripped. I don't sew.

Perhaps I need a bit more of this don't-care attitude in my everyday life. So what if I try and fail? Fail is my default mode so it's not unexpected after all. 

I know someone who is always telling us how good she is at this or that and how much people like her. I'm pretty sure it's her insecurities that make her so boastful, create the need to believe in herself and convince others of her worthiness. I'm much more likely to tell a story about how useless I am. Which also displays my insecurities and the need to be reassured. 

All the hundreds of handy-mottoes-to-live-by that appear on Facebook suggest to me that most of us need frequent reminders of our worth. And judging by the frequency with which some people post them they're mostly not convinced.

But this has turned into a very serious post and veered away from what I was building up to which was the grass cut I gave myself attempting to pick a piece of grass while strolling through the woods. It's just behind my knuckle and I walked the rest of the way home with a tissue wrapped around it, repeating the mantra, 'I'm not going to faint.' I didn't feel as if I were about to but, if you recall the last time I gave blood, that's not necessarily a prerequisite. There I was, lying on the bed feeling fine, chatting merrily about sinks when all of a sudden I thought, 'I'm going to faint.' And that was it. No wooziness or darkening of the skies, no blood flooding my face, just boing and I was gone.

But today I made it home without further incidence which is just as well as Husband would have been cross with me for not taking my phone. (I never take my phone on walks. I rarely take it anywhere in fact.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Face the fear and ... what comes next?

I'm not good with heights. Or windy spiral staircases. But I'm fighting it. Whereas in the past I'd have said, 'No way, I'm not trying that,' these days I'm more open to having a go. To a certain point anyway.

There's a high railway viaduct over the Stura river with a walkway at about one third of its height.
To get to the walkway you have to climb a spiral staircase. Walking over the bridge was a doddle compared to the climb up!


And you know those bridges you see Indiana Jones rushing over just before the rope holding it up is slashed? Well, this was just like one of those. Apart from the fact that it was made of fairly solid wire and slats. Still the principle was the same: it wobbled especially in the wind. I told Husband I wasn't going to go across and waited until he'd crossed and disappeared into the woods on the other side before I set foot on it because I knew if we were on it together he'd jump up and down to make it shake. He's like that. 

As I walked over I kept repeating to myself, 'This is perfectly safe. You can do it, you can do it.' When I finally reached the other side two thoughts jostled in my brain. 'Hooray, I've done it!' and 'Oh no, now I've got to go back again!'

There were 91 steps (spiral of course) to the top of the bell tower in La Morro. We had cool drinks and waited until the bell had chimed two o'clock before we climbed up. We'd just reached the top when it chimed two again! I tell you, you don't want to be that close to a bell when it chimes.

Big Benches and little signs

The BIG BENCH COMMUNITY PROJECT has developed from one man’s simple one-off creation into an initiative designed to support local enterprise, tourism and craftsmanship. There are, I think, seven or eight Big Benches in the vicinity of where we were staying so we set off in search of them. But we weren't entirely successful. For a could-be tourist attraction they're not exactly well-signposted or easy to find.
The first one we found in Carru. This one is surrounded by seven little benches, each bearing a label saying where its Big Sister could be found.

This one was down the end of a tiny scrappy lane ... somewhere. The advantage of course is that it is free from graffiti!

This was probably the newest one in Fossano.
Part of the thinking behind the Big Bench is that you will get a new perspective from sitting on it. Once again you'll feel like a child and see things differently.

It would be great to see these benches spread all over the world!

Boring post about holiday no. 1

We returned home at the beginning of this week after driving 2,783.4 miles, taking more than 715 photos, eating more Italian food than was probably good for us, failing to eat an ice cream every day (shock! horror!) and having not enough cuddles with new grandbaby. What would have been enough? Nothing.

GrandChild6/GrandSon4 is of course utterly eatable and delicious. And already is well versed in the Italian habit of eating out, having slept peacefully through a late Saturday evening restaurant meal and a long Sunday afternoon baptism feast. Not so hot at sleeping at night but, hey, that will come.

Now I could be really boring about our holiday but I'll try to sum it up in a few - well, maybe more than a few - selected photos.

We were staying in the Piemonte area between the foothills of the Alps and the Langhe, the area that produces Italy's most famous and expensive wine, Barolo, so our excursions took us up into the mountains and south into the vineyards, as well as into any number of quaint old towns and villages each with their own particular features. We were fortunate to have incredible weather for the whole of our time there with temperatures never dropping below the high 20s. Also fortunately both our bed & breakfast, Villa Laura, and the in-laws had their own pools so we were able to cool down when it got too much. Incidentally if you're planning a trip to the area I can't recommend Villa Laura enough.

Breakfast by the pool.
Vineyards in the Montfort d'Alba surrounds

Now that's what I call a sweet shop!

These cows were unusual: in Italy it seems to be that they tend to keep cows inside and dogs outside.

There were so many examples of trompe l'oeil everywhere that I began to struggle to differentiate.

By the time Husband had taken this photo the icy cold of the Alpine stream had spread up to my knees.
We were fortunate enough to spot a small group (herd?) of chamois deer.
Lago della ravina (possibly). Unfortunately there was a sign forbidding swimming but it was very tempting. (I can say that now; at the time I thought the water was just a tad cold!)

And just because you have to leave a Welsh inuksuk (not authentic - Husband pointed out that the original ones we saw in Canada had two 'legs'.)
Frolicking in the fountain at Mondovi.

From La Morro (I think).
From the clock tower at La Morro.

La Morro.
This was in a nature reserve but it's in this area that they grow the hazelnuts for Nutella.

In defence of ebooks

The best book I read on holiday - and the one I've enjoyed more than any other for ages - was on my kindle. It was My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman who also wrote A Man Called Ove.

If you like children, grannies, dogs, fairy tales and dysfunctional humans then this is the book for you. I loved it. This is the granny I aspire to be.

The trouble now is that all other books seem ordinary.

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's official: I've lost the plot

I blame grandchildren and new babies in particular.

We leave for Italy the day after tomorrow. Normally when we go on holiday the first thing on my packing list is: books. Well, I've packed baby nappies, baby wipes, baby vests, and baby presents but I haven't even chosen a single book to take with me!

That's not strictly true. I have downloaded some ebooks but I have to have proper books as well. I have plenty that I've been saving for a rainy day so I'll just sort out some of those. If I can just remember where I put them. 

A Sleepless in Swansea sort of weekend

It all began Saturday morning when Younger Son messaged to say that Nuora's waters had broken - but no contractions - and she was in hospital. (This was in spite of Baby having been given strict instructions not to arrive until the following weekend when we'd be there.)

Whatsapp proved very useful in keeping the parents and siblings updated although there wasn't a lot that could be called progress. Contractions did start but weren't too strong or close together so we went to bed Saturday night anticipating a night-time delivery: I said before midnight; Husband said 4.00 am.

With my phone next to the bed I tried to sleep. But you know what it's like. I'd drop off, wake suddenly and wonder if I'd missed a message, check the phone, sigh deeply and try to sleep again. Which meant that Husband who's a light sleeper didn't sleep well either. It didn't help that we hadn't actually specified arrangements, such as, if Baby arrives at say, 1.00 am, should YS message us immediately or wait until morning?

Turned out Baby had his own plans. He arrived just before 6.00 am (Sunday, 21st August) and YS messaged us about an hour later as soon as he had a chance.

After a long and fairly traumatic labour, with no painkillers for mum, Leonardo Luigi Hinds weighed in at 8.1 lbs. No photos - we're not allowed - so you'll have to trust me when I say he's perfect. 

Whatsapp once again served a purpose during the day as messages of congratulations, support and advice flew between the new father and us and his experienced siblings and the smile hasn't left my face since.

Elder Son told GrandSon1 that Granny was very excited about going to see his new baby cousin. GrandSon1 nodded. 'I know why.'
'Oh yes, what's that?' his dad asked.
'She wants to bite his bottom.'