That Was The Year That….

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Tennyson,  1st Baron Tennyson,  Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland
August 1809 –  October 1892

And now this is the last day of the year.  The sun is shining brightly after several days of dreary rain, and we are looking forward to the New Year.

This has been a year that has been very eventful for me and will be long remembered. A snap decision to sell the house and travel, meeting a new special person (again), adventures in Florence, the excitement of melding two families and so much more.

The decision had been made to go away – if I didn’t do it now when would I? And having no idea how long I would be away it was decided to sell the house and put my belongings into storage rather than buy another house.

Sold

Packing up the house to put everything into storage went well.  My son and daughter have their own houses and didn’t want my furniture, except one particular chair that went to my daughter-in-law (she had always wanted it) and a desk and a sofa table that went to my daughter.  All the rest was packed by the removers and taken to storage.  That was interesting.  I had downsized considerably when moving into that house and was very surprised to note that I needed three storage units to house my belongings.

During the decision making to move and go away on an extended trip, I met up again with an acquaintance from years before.  We spent a lot of time together during the sales process and when the settlement took place, I was invited to join him in his house in the beech forest.

House in the trees

Then it was time to start my travels.  Three grandsons and my daughter came to the airport to see me off.  None of us knew how long I would be away although I did have a return ticket for February 3, but my family were used to my going to visit my sisters on the other side of the world and changing return date

Wellington Airport

How fast and how large they have all grown

I had a lovely time spent catching up with my younger sister in London.  The plan had been for her to come to Florence with me but that didn’t work our as she had a health scare that meant she couldn’t fly.  But we had a lovely time visiting friends and family and revisiting museums and places of interest, not as a tourist but as a returning Londoner.

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2013 090

And then it was off to explore Florence on my own.  I rented an apartment out of the centre of town in an area where I appeared to be the only English-speaking resident.  But how happy to help me were the Italians I came across when I used my faltering Italian to communicate with them.  In all the time I was there I encountered only one surly bus driver who couldn’t or wouldn’t help me.

Duomo 2

But as often happens, homesickness or rather the longing to be with friends and family again, overtook me and I decided that it was time to cut short this adventure.  So back to London for another week with my sister and then I returned home to New Zealand.

And what a happy homecoming that was.  I was met by my special friend in Auckland and we drove together down the North Island to Wellington stopping on the way to catch up with friends in Taupo.

http://www.greatlaketaupo.com/new-zealand/interactivemap/

Then a new phase in this long and happy life began.  It was decided that we would spend the rest of our lives together, both having had long and successful marriages cut short by the death of our spouses.  So I moved into this house in the forest and we set about making memories of our own.

House

The new house is almost complete – well the roof is on, doors installed and the glazing is in.  But of course, this is holiday time here in NZ and all the builders and contractors are away.  It’s very peaceful without them but we will look forward to their return on January 6.

Breakfast Pinehaven Style

Breakfast Pinehaven Style

But we are making use of the new house already. G & Ts taken looking into the forest and the photo shows breakfast cooked on the barbecue yesterday and eaten in the almost complete house.

Sisters

To round off another eventful and adventurous year, my younger sister in London has taken up my invitation to come and visit us.  She has never been to NZ.  In fact, none of my family have, and so I am looking forward to showing her where I make my life; introducing her to friends and reintroducing her to her niece and nephew and their families.  So this will be a great start to 2014.

Christmas came and went in a flurry of activities as usual.  Friends have called in for drinks, barbecues etc and on New Year’s Eve we shall have dinner with my Special Friend’s son and his partner and their two little girls.

What a fantastic year 2013 has been for me.  I hope you can all say the same and if not, my wishes for a fabulous, healthy and safe 2014 are sent to you all.

Happy Holidays to all

Pohutakawa tree

Our own New Zealand Christmas tree. Image via Wikipedia

It’s Christmas Eve as I write this blog and even though I have been absent from the blogosphere for several weeks again, I have been reading some of your interesting posts and keeping up with my blogging friends times and travels.

Presents are wrapped ready to be delivered and as my daughter and I are going out to a hotel for lunch tomorrow there is no last-minute cooking and preparations going on.

It is supposedly summer here but today has been dull and rainy and decidedly chilly.  We thought summer had arrived this weekend.  We had a roof shout on Friday – do you know about roof shouts?  These are held with all the builders and contractors and other trades people once the roof is on the house.  It was a glorious day and we enjoyed a fantastic barbecue with 20+ others in the new house.  As well as the roof being complete, the front door and garage door are in and able to be closed, and the glazing is in place.  So once the builders return from their summer holiday work will begin again and soon the house should be habitable.

On this day last year I posted the New Zealand version of the Twelve Days of Christmas and I thought it worth repeating.  So here goes, you know the tune – enjoy our version.

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A pukeko in a ponga tree

Pukeko

via Wikipedia

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Two kumera
And a pukeko in a ponga tree

On the third day of Christmas
Three flax kits
and so on, until…

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve piupius swinging
Eleven haka lessons
Ten juicy fish heads
Nine sacks of pipis
Eight plants of puha
Seven eels a swimming
Six pois a twirling
Five – big – fat – pigs!
Four huhu grubs
Three flax kits
Two kumera
And a pukeko in a ponga tree!
Eight plants of puha
Seven eels a swimming

pois dancing

Picture via Wikipedia

Definitions

Pukeko = type of bird found in NZ
Ponga Tree = a fern tree that grows in NZ
Kumera = a yellow sweet potato with a purple inside core
Piuspius = a skirt made from strips of flax. They look like hula skirts. They’re worn by the Maori (indigenous people of NZ) during certain dances and special celebrations.
Haka = war chant/dance
Pipis = small shellfish
Puha = a type of sow thistle that is eaten as a vegetable in NZ
Pois = Maori word for ball – they’re two balls on the end of two ropes and they’re twirled around making patterns during some Maori dances
Huhu = a small edible grub or beetle found in NZ.

So now for all my friends out there may I wish you a safe and happy holiday period whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid, Yule or any other.   If you are in the northern hemisphere keep warm and everybody take care when driving.  We all know that there are plenty of crazies out there behind the wheels of cars.

Happy Holidays

Home Again

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver, 1935 -

Well now a change in lifestyle for me.

I arrived home safely from my European adventure.  And what an adventure that was.  After almost 11 weeks I was happy to be back home and ready to begin the next phase in this life.

I have lived alone for 15 years since my Dashing Young Scotsman died and thought I would spend the rest of my life so.  I was happy with my family, friends and little dog and then into this settled life came another Dashing but older man, to take me to pastures new.  He has a passion for music, for travel and as an architect, for beautiful buildings.   Of course, we plan to go back to Florence together in the New Year.

So lots of pluses to this new life.  But there are some major changes to get used to when living daily with another.  For so many years I made decisions, appointments and plans with no thought for another.  Now there are two of us to consider.  I think when living alone one does become rather selfish and so it’s very good to have to stop and think before I say “Yes” to an invitation.  The other person must be considered too.  I am learning here.

We are very involved in selling this current house (see the garden view into the beech forest as the header to the blog) and building another house.  Daily I am involved in decisions on the new house and it’s very exciting.

And I am so excited.  My sister in London has agreed to come for a visit in the New Year.  None of my family has ever been here so I shall enjoy showing her this beautiful country and introducing her to my friends and my special friend when she gets here.

So much to look forward to and so much to be grateful for.  Each day I note all the things for which I am grateful my health, my lifestyle, my friends, my family.

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks while I become adjusted to this new way of life, but now I am back.  I hope/expect to have more adventures in the future (and at present) that I should like to share with you.

I have been re-reading Mary Oliver recently and so I have another favourite quote to share with you

“….there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

Rainbow

My rainbow

 

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

The siren call of home has sounded and each day it is getting   louder.  It is now 10 weeks since I kissed my family and special friend goodbye at Wellington airport and set off on this adventure.  And what an adventure it has been.

Wellington August 2013 040

First I visited my sister in London and we did things that sisters would do if they saw each other on a regular basis.  We don’t but we make up for it when we do meet.  We visited family, and aged aunt with Alzheimer’s (although we discovered she is only a few years older than us), cousins, nieces and a special blogging buddy in Oxford.

Sisters

Originally our plans were to both go to Florence, hut these plans were dashed when my sister had to have a series of tests after suffering what was thought could be a heart attack.  She wasn’t allowed to fly so I went on my own.

I felt rather shaky on the day I left London.  I was going off alone to a country where I knew nobody and didn’t speak the language.  But what a great time I had there.  I found my way around very easily and quickly felt at home in this wonderful city.  Paris is described a the City of Light but for me now Florence will always have that soubriquet.

I discovered all the wonderful buildings and artwork that I had read about so many times in the past but I also discovered the back streets where lesser known wonders were housed.  I discovered the joys/benefits of living in an apartment in a suburb as opposed to living in a five-star hotel in the centre of town.  And there is a certain freedom in being somewhere where one is not known and one knows no-one.

I have waxed on and on about the wonders of this now my favourite city in earlier posts and so wont bore you here, but if you have missed them or if you are a new reader of this blog please click here to read of my adventures.

Il Duomo

Click the photo to read some of the posts on my visit to Florence

After almost three weeks the call of family and home was becoming stronger and so I left Florence and went back to London to decide on the next leg of this journey/adventure/experience.  The decision was made that I should return home and resume normal life albeit slightly differently because now my partner and I have decided we want to spend the rest of our lives together.  So another chapter in this long and colourful life is beginning.

Wellington city and harbour.

Wellington City and harbour. Via Wikipedia

Changes to the airline ticket have been made and I am now going home on Saturday 2 November – that’s only “four more sleeps” and I am getting excited about seeing family and friends again. Oh I shall miss my sister,the interaction, laughs,stories and jokes but it is time for normal service to be resumed.

China Southern Airlines

Because of the mix up on the way to London the airline has upgraded me to First Class travel home.  I another reason to be looking forward to Saturday.  I am looking forward to it.

So I will be off-line for a few days, but watch this space.

“Is it possible for home to be a person and
not a place?”
Stephanie Perkins,  American author

Day 19 – Farewell Florence

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go,
we take a little of each other everywhere.”
Tim McGraw, American singer, songwriter and actor 1967 -

Yesterday I was up quite early to finish packing and tidying up the apartment before I left.    I did allow enough time to go for a final macchiato and brioche at my favourite pasticerria.  As I was leaving I said goodbye and in halting Italian I said that I was going back to London.  This caused a flurry of ciaos, and what I took to be good wishes as I left promising to return.  What a lucky find that little place was and how friendly all the staff were – the owner spoke not a word of English and two of the staff knew enough to understand what I what I was asking for but I did feel a genuine rapport with these people.

Packed ready to leave

Packed and ready to leave

Then back to the apartment to await the taxi.  At 10.25 the neighbour knocked on the door to tell me the cab was due any time.  We took out my bags (note here what started as one bag morphed into two because of all the Italian leather goods I bought as gifts) and waited on the pavement for the cab.  We had a pleasant conversation and then he left having kissed me on both cheeks, shaken my hand and telling me that if the cab didn’t arrive to come and knock on his door so that he could sort it out.  I marvel at how two people who don’t speak each others language manage to communicate.

It reminded me of one time when we were in Hong Kong staying at a friend’s apartment the air conditioning didn’t work.  My friend’s Amah and my late husband managed to communicate and we were told that the maintenance man  would come that afternoon to fix the problem.  I would think that understanding Chinese is rather more difficult that understanding Italian.

Taxis waiting at The Duomo

All roads do lead to The Duomo.

Anyway back to Florence. The cab duly arrived and the cheerful driver made some comment about ladies not travelling light and humped my suitcases into the back of his cab.

When we arrived at the airport he went off and got me a trolley.  I would never have found one if left to my own devices.

It was quite warm 24 degrees Celsius and the airport was awash with people.  I had to purchase an extra bag because my ticket only allowed for one.  So 70 Euros($NZ116/$US96) later I joined the long queue for bag drop off for Air France.  I am glad that I arrived at the airport early because this took a loooong time.

And my partner says my bag is too large

And my partner says my bag is too large

There are no air-bridges at least for these short hop flights and so we were taken out to the plane in a bus – standing room only.  We then had to climb a flight of stairs.  A really beautiful young French steward took my in flight bag and then asked if I was travelling alone.  When I answered in the affirmative he gave me a seat in the Business Class section.  He had the most beautiful smile and a wonderful accent.  I think I am in love.

So I had s very pleasant flight to London.

On arrival the customs hall was empty and so even though I had nothing to declare we went straight through.  Simple, easy arrival.

London taxis

Next job find a cab.  This was easy as there were many Black London cabs lined up.  I got into one with a garrulous Cockney driver.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know where my sister’s address was and his satnav was no help.  Eventually after driving around for a time, I saw an intersection I recognised and directed him from there.  His satnav was still telling him to turn left when we turned right.  My advice to him was to throw the thing out of the window.

After a reviving coffee accompanied by laughs and catching up what we had each been doing for the past few weeks, we had dinner – fish and chips as only the British can make them.  Great.

Then it was time to visit Marianne’s family who were all at the local hall enjoying a children’s Halloween party.  Noisy, rambunctious, over excited children and their mothers, but what fun these people were all having.  I have never been involved with a group of like-minded but very different people.  Some travellers (read gypsies) live locally and they apparently join in with all the activities.  The party was supposed to finish at 8pm but the mothers decided they wanted to dance and dance they did.  Then some of the fathers arrived and some of the boxers (the party was held in the Pedro Youth Club which supports local youth and promotes and encourages boxing).  Please click on the link – my two nieces are involved in the club, one does all the administration on a volunteer basis and the other is also a volunteer.  It is a worthy cause in a deprived area and James Cook who heads the club is a well-respected person in the area.  The party finished around 10.30pm after all the mothers helped to tidy and vacuum the place ready for another party today, Saturday.

So another busy day ended. My sister’s “recycled” but shy cat has decided that I am alright and is sitting watching me as I type.

“Women and cats will do as they please,
and men and dogs should relax and
get used to the idea.”
Robert A. Heinlein, American novelist and
science fiction writer.  1907 – 1988

 

Florence Day 18

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver,  American poet
1935 -

Pig

One must stroke the pig’s nose to ensure one will return to Florence

This morning I had no internet access, nor could I send or receive text messages.  I felt totally alone in a foreign environment and thought about how we have all come to rely on technology to make our days run smoothly.  The internet is pretty patchy here and seems to work well for several hours and then like today it will go off.  So patience is called for.  But I am so glad when I am traveling alone that I have access to this technology.

File missing

Now this stay in Florence is being cut short and this is the last day, as tomorrow I shall catch a plane to London and my family there.

Sisters

I have enjoyed finding my way around this most beautiful city, learning a few words of the language and mostly managing to make myself understood.  But I shall miss jumping on the buses to get around.  The public transport system is amazing; I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus.  Taxis are a little different.  One cannot just hail a cab here as one does at home.  They have to be picked up at the taxi stands which are few and far between or alternatively ordered by phone.

Bus

So today was a day for packing and tidying up and getting ready to leave.

Courtyard

Courtyard

 Entrance hall

My friendly and kindly next door neighbours have ordered a cab to take me to the aeroporto domani.  I resorted to writing out my request for them.  I knew I could never make myself understood if I tried to say the words.

An interesting interlude followed as Guiliano told me that I wouldn’t need to order the cab until tomorrow.  I want it at 10.30 am so he said to come tomorrow to his house (next door) at 9 am to make the booking.  Then some time later he rang the doorbell and told me he had booked the cab in his name for tomorrow.  So I think, he is going to knock on my door when it gets here.  I do so love these interactions where neither party speaks the others language.  Somehow we manage to communicate.

Florence Day 3 2013 007

I went out for macchiato and brioche as usual.  I told the folk in the pasticceria that I was leaving tomorrow – they seemed to understand as we smiled and wished each other arrivederci.  I did buy an apricot turnover and a brioche to take away with me.  They were to be part of lunch or dinner.Lunch

Lunch today was a scratch meal using up what was left in the apartment.  Quite satisfying but not as good as some of the lunches I have eaten since I arrived here.  Oh well …

“I had surprised myself this year by
jumping in to reshape my life before life
stepped in to reshape it for me.”  Alice Steinbach

 

 

 

 

 

Florence Day 17

“Life is like that I thought, as I turned the corner to my building.
Freedom has its danger as well as its joys.
And the sooner we learn to get up after a fall, the better off will be.”
Alice Steinbach

This is the notice I found stuck on the front door of the apartment building yesterday when I returned.  Have absolutely no idea what it says, but whatever it is happened on 22/23 October.

Notice on apartment building door

Notice on apartment building door

I decided on another day wandering around this city I have come to love.

Carabinere at statiom

Carabiniere at the station. There was a lot of them – what’s going on.  Notice the ever-present Golden Arches

Percy Byshe Shelly placque

The plaque showing Percy Byshe Shelley lived in the building

City market

Original city market opened 1874

Entry to City market

Here’s the entry showing the date

The market was a chef’s dream come true.  Everything imaginable as on sale for the chef.  Fresh meats, fish, vegetables and fruit,  as well as many dried items.

Inside the market

Inside the market

Flower stall inside the market

Flower stall inside the market

Great display of cheeses, salami etc

Great display of cheeses, salami etc

More goodies on display

More goodies on display

And more

And more

Pasta making on site

Pasta making on site

An endless variety of goodies

An endless variety of goodies

Fish

Almost sold out

Very large fish

Very large unknown fish

Display of fruit

Having feasted my eyes on all these goodies and great displays I wandered outside again.  The first thing I saw was this dog in a food shop.  We, well most of us like dogs in New Zealand but they are not allowed in shops of any kind, on public transport or in the centre of town.  Very different to Florence where dogs are everywhere.

Florence Day 17 030Owner’s dog in shop doorway

Opera in the piazzaOpera in  the piazza

Carousel in squareCarousel in same piazza

Busy cornerAnother busy corner with an interesting building

LunchLunch at Trattoria San Lorenzo
Tagliatelle AlfredoHouses on the River ArnoI ended up at the Ponte Vecchio again and took this photo
of the houses on the River Arno

GelattoGelato selection – Yes I succumbed and had a small one

Back where it all beganBack to where it started when I first arrived in Florence.
Church of Santa Maria Novella

Coming home I got on the wrong bus and ended up in a different part of town.  A leafy suburb but I had no idea of where I was.  If one (me) gets lost in a city there are always points of reference  – here the dome of the Duomo, the stazione, etc – but in the suburbs there is nothing.  Fortunately I met a woman and her adult son both of whom spoke a little English.  The bus I had taken was a 17 and they told me to get a 17 going in the opposite direction.  To pick the bus up in the centro via not at the side of the road.  So I duly boarded another bus but again I recognised nothing and so seeing a Taxi stand I jumped off the bus and got a cab.

This was a very exciting ride.  A garrulous, highly temperamental, yelling woman driver who I am sure called all other drivers on the road imbeciles and possibly worse.  But she deposited me at the door, even though once again I saw nothing I recognised.  Just another incident  to record on this adventure.

I am getting ready to leave Florence at present and am going back to London to meet with my sister  and plan the next stage of this adventure.

But I shall return to Florence and to make doubly sure I went and stroked the pig’s snout again.

Pig 1

And thanks to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way  for the following Mark Twain quote
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry,
and narrow-mindedness.”

The internet is a trifle temperamental, rather like my taxi driver yesterday and it comes and goes as it pleases which is why this post is late.