Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Italy by Train

Buenos Dias. That's about all the Italian I know so it's a good job we had a Tour Guide with us.

Train travel is not the quickest method of getting across the Continent but it suits me better than defying the laws of gravity for hours on end and you can see the countryside as you go. This is the foothills of the French Alps taken through the window of a very fast-moving TGV.

Our main base was in Chiavari, Italy, where I drank lots of coffee sitting outside lots of cafes in the myriad of arcaded streets. 

We were part of an organised tour group, 24 of us in total, and everyone was lovely. We ate, drank, chatted, laughed and still managed to squeeze in lots of sightseeing. We visited The Cinque Terre, five small fishing villages nestling in crevices where the mountains met the Mediterranean...

We sipped Italian coffee in Portofino Harbour and pretended that we were rich and owned an enormous yacht...

On the way home the Alps were transformed by thick snow and it was even more beautiful than when we came (only not so photogenic!)

And now we're home and it's cold and dreary but I've got some lovely memories to keep me going through the winter. We've decided that we really like Italy and we're going to go back there for sure, so I'd better learn a bit more of the language. Ciao for now ;-)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Winter is Coming

North Wind is in training.
He’s sparring and teasing like Ali once did.

The dustbins are tumbling.
They’re spewing out litter from ill-secured lids.

Our old fence is shaking.
The fence posts are rotten and can’t stand the fight.

Sash windows are rattling.
They're causing insomnia right through the night.

Our swing seat is naked.
No more lazy lunches while we sit and sway.

The canopy’s dismantled
To stop Wind from lifting it up and away.

Oh yes, Wind means business.
He’s pulled on his gloves with a duck and a dive.

He’s punching our garden
And kicking detritus all over our drive.

Go reset the heating
And put all your t-shirts away until spring,

Cause winter is coming.
Wind's left hook has knocked summer out of the ring.

Friday, 19 October 2012

What are you doing with your Today?

Lots of sayings and thoughts scroll past my eyes when I’m on Twitter. Mostly I don’t notice them but sometimes a special one appears, one that seems to be speaking directly to me, like this one...

“...Today well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope...”

It’s from a poem by Kalidasa called Look to This Day and it’s beautiful, inspiring, but it also throws up an issue for me. What is meant by “well lived”? I’d like to know because I’m very aware that once a day has gone it has gone. Each day is precious and I hate to think that I’m wasting them so...

Does it mean to work so hard we collapse into bed at the end of the day or does it mean to doss and generally over-indulge ourselves, rather like our cats always do?

Mabel is on the left and Charlie on the right.
Does it mean to work for the good of others thereby gaining satisfaction from making other people happy or does it mean to look after ourselves, Number One, and make sure that we’re happy, rather like our cats always do?

If somebody can give me a blueprint for living my day “well” then I promise I’ll give it a try. In the meantime I’ll have to carry on doing a bit of everything and never quite being sure if I’m truly getting the best out of my days.

What is your idea of a day “well lived”?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Jo Carroll's Hidden Tiger

“You’ll be surprised what you can do with a rhino behind you.”

Jo Carroll

This was one of my favourite quotes from Jo Carroll’s latest book, Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain. I suspect I would curl up in a ball and cry, but not Jo and so I had to invite her along to my blog and ask her a question or two:

Speaking as a wimpy, scaredy-cat, non-traveller can you explain to me why you go travelling, on your own, to such far-flung places?
That's a hard one. All I can say is that I love it - love that stomach-lurching dislocation of stepping into a new country, the not-knowing, the effort of trying to cast off all my western assumptions, begin from a place of knowing nothing and then trying to understand. I love the extraordinary efforts total strangers can make to help me feel at home. I love the smells of hot cities. I love the orchestra of the jungle. (I used to think I loved tigers!) 

Buddhists in Lumbini, Nepal
What is it about Nepal? It sounds as if it’s touched your heart like no other place.
I do, indeed, love Nepal. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I never quite get over how huge the mountains are! Even though we know the Himalayas are magnificent, it's still humbling to totter round their foothills. But it's more than that - I love the people, their humour, their generosity and their determination to grow their rice or open their businesses in spite of the weather or the terrain or the lack of electricity and governmental chaos.

Which was the one moment, standing out from all of those truly terrifying situations, when you really didn’t think you’d get home alive?

Coming down the mountain, in the dark, after the cyclone. Never again! (Never again to cyclones, that is - not never again to travelling!)
Jo on a wobbly bridge, foothills of the Himalayas

Do you have any future travelling plans?
I wanted to go to Madagascar in January because I've never been. I even bought the Lonely Planet only to find that it's cyclone season. Since I have yet to rediscover a sense of humour where cyclones are concerned, I decided to look elsewhere. So now it’s Thailand and Laos after Christmas but I'm not sure how easy independent travel is there. I shall have find that out when I arrive. 

Thanks, Jo, I think you're amazing, an example to all of us *polite cough* older ladies. I know that everyone reading this post wishes you an enjoyable and SAFE time in Thailand and we're looking forward to hearing about it. 

If you want to read all about Jo’s amazing trip to Nepal then click on the book cover to buy a copy of Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain:

And do visit her at her blog at Gap Years The Book.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Two Special Days

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. One of the messages of the day was for people to open up about their mental health issues. That makes sense and so...

...I don’t think I’ve ever admitted here on my blog that I left full-time teaching due to a nervous breakdown. I've since spoken to many other teachers who have had similar problems and it helps to know that I'm not the only one. I’ve never completely recovered my composure since then but I’m a whole lot better for having had counselling and the chance to talk about things.

Tomorrow is World Arthritis Day. This is another one that I can identify with. About ten years ago I was diagnosed with the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I saw a Rheumatologist who prescribed anti-inflammatory pills and said, “Ask your GP to increase the strength when these are no longer strong enough.” I didn’t take them. My arthritis has hardly worsened and I dread to think what my stomach would have been like if I’d been stuffing it with those drugs for the last umpteen years.

That doesn’t mean that the Arthritis doesn’t trouble me. It does but it’s manageable. I’ve tried various exclusion diets. Wheat, dairy, they made no difference. I cut out oranges, plums, tomatoes and rhubarb. That helped a little and it does get worse when I feast on delicious cherry tomatoes from Mr A’s greenhouse. I do Pilates once a week. It's Clinical Pilates. There are only six of us in the group and the instructor knows about our individual needs and adapts moves accordingly. This exercise does more than anything to keep things moving so I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones.

Arthritis Care are asking people to raise awareness of World Arthritis Day. About 10 million people in the UK alone have arthritis so this is relevant to a large percentage of us. Pop over to their website, ArthritisCare, to read about the facts of arthritis, get contact details of people who can help you cope with the disease and find out more about this campaign.

Do you have any tried and tested ways to ease the symptoms of arthritis? If you do then please share them in the Comments below. A lot of us will be interested to read them.
[Apparently this week is National Chocolate Week. Who needs a whole week to remind them to eat chocolate? Every week is chocolate week, isn't it?]

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Virtual Chocolate and Wine

As promised here are the prizes for those who commented in rhyme on National Poetry Day.

There’s something rather special about writing within the constraints of a strict metre and rhyme. I inevitably start off saying one thing but, in a strange way, the constrictions lead me to say something quite different and often better. If you haven’t tried it then you should... at least once!

Some of my best blogging friends are among the winners below. I love visiting their blogs so I’m going to include their blog links with my presentation so you can enjoy them to. And so....

Virtual chocolate and wine goes to:

Susan Flett Swiderski who blogs at I think; therefore, I Yam

Duncan D. Horne who you’ll find at Our Home Called Kuantan. Duncan used to live in my very own Leicester, UK, but he's now loving living in Malaysia.

Jo who blogs at Gap Years The Book and will shortly be making a guest appearance on my blog to talk about her latest scary trek in Nepal (you can find out all about it in her book Hidden Tiger Raging Mountain.)

Delores who you can find at The Feathered Nest

Julie a lovely friend from Empty Nest Insider

Anne who blogs at Is Anyone There? and who has become a firm friend thanks to Twitter.

Lauren who is a new visitor to my blog and has her own blog at Book in the Oven

Amy who blogs at The Green Bathtub (I just love some of these blog names! Must start asking people why.)

Joanne who you’ll find at Word Splash

And last but (as they say) by no means least, the lovely Robyn who blogs at Life by Chocolate. Even when life turns tough for Robyn, her blog posts still brighten my day.

I hope you won't be waiting until next year's National Poetry Day to write another poem. In fact, I think you should take a chocolate, help yourself to a glass or two and pen a poem now... and don't forget to share it with us! 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

It's National Poetry Day

The 4th of October is Poetry Day.
I hope you’ve all taken the time
To ensure that your writing and clever word play
Is exploding with rhythm and rhyme.

Write your daily to do list in long ballad form
Leave the milkman a note in Haiku
Your sonnet style emails will go down a storm.
Why not tweet out a tanka or two.

I’m trying to make sure I talk all in rhyme
Using couplets and triplets galore
But I wish it was over til next year this time
Cause I can’t keep it up any more.

I'll give virtual chocolates and wine
For comments with rhythm and rhyme! 

[OK and all right, it was only a joke
Tho I know blogger land's full of poetry folk.]

You can find out more about National Poetry Day at their website http://www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk/