Monthly Archives: September 2014

Writing 101 – Sunday for Tea

Day 10 and the challenge is :

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal the one that was always a treat, that meant  celebration, or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

For this challenge I decided to reblog a post I wrote a couple of years ago at the beginning of this journey into the world of blogs.

I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

Sunday for tea
I’ll see you Sunday for tea
And though it’s not far away
Each hour’s a day to me

Lettuce and ham
Or maybe crumpets and jam
Oh baby it’ll be fun
Havin’ a Sunday tea

So sang Peter and Gordon in the 1960s.

For our family Sunday afternoon tea was a ritual.  The whole family that is Grandma and Poppy, their two sons and daughter, their spouses and the 9 grandchildren regularly met on Sunday at Grandma and Poppy’s apartment.

While the adults talked and discussed whatever adults discussed, the 8 granddaughters and the sole grandson amused themselves as children did then. We played cards, dominoes, monopoly  and other childish games that our grandchildren would not think of playing today.

DominoesPlaying cards


The adults would of course, have cups of tea while catching up on the gossip.  They all lived near each other, in fact my grandparents lived in…

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Writing 101 – Point of View

Still playing catch up.  Hopefully tomorrow I shall be caught up.

Day 9 and the challenge is:

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

The man suddenly stopped. He looked at the old woman knitting her red sweater and broke into loud sobs. “Hush dear. It is alright” said the woman who was walking with him.

“But what if he doesn’t respond.” said the man. “What if he is a vegetable for ever?” “What if we hadn’t persevered and insisted that he have the operation. He was a happy little boy, now who knows what will happen to him.”

Taking his hand in hers and gently wiping away his tears the woman said “But we had to give him the chance to live life as any other normal little boy. Without this operation he would never have run around chasing a ball, never have played cricket or rugby and would have always been sitting on the sidelines watching life go by. I am sure that we have done the right thing.” And with a smile she turned him back towards the hospital where their young son lay recovering from an operation.

The woman is much more pragmatic than the man, although she too is very concerned about the condition of their son. She has had many conversations with herself, their married daughter and their medical advisers before and since reaching the decision to go ahead with the operation.

The sick child has been born many years after their only daughter, who has since married and moved away. She and her mother are in close contact and since the decision was made to have the operation, they have been in contact daily.

While she is conciliatory towards her husband, helping him in this terrible time, she also wishes he would ‘buck up’ and perhaps support her more. Hard times are easier if there is somebody to share them with.

The old woman is knitting the red sweater for her grandson. She doesn’t know whether it will ever reach him. He is living in Algeria with his mother and his father, who is a doctor.  She is greatly worried about them.  However, she continues to send parcels to the family regularly but does not know if or when they receive them as contact with them is difficult if not impossible.

So she knits and sends presents as a way to keep some connection with her family during this scary time.

Writing 101 – Death to Adverbs

It’s now Thursday Day 9 of the challenge but first I must write Day 8.  This is a day late because of an emergency yesterday that didn’t allow me to post a blog.

So Day 8 and the challenge is:

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Thoughtful writers create meaning by choosing precise words to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. As you strive to create strong imagery, show your readers what’s going on; avoid telling them.

Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.

My partner has been having trouble seeing clearly.  He has complained about a shield coming down and almost covering his eye, therefore making reading very difficult.  So an appointment was made for the optometrist.

I dropped him off at the appointed time and then took a leisurely stroll around the city shops.  I had only 30 minutes to spare so this necessitated restricting my visit to two shops.

Kirks doorman

photo –

The first shop was the top department store in the country.  When one enters through the front doors (opened I might add by a gentleman in a top hat and dark uniform coat) one is immediately assailed by the heady mix of perfumes, quietly playing music and beautiful (mainly) young things telling us of the wonders of their particular product.  “Would madam like to try this new perfume?”  Hence the many smells lingering in the air or “Would madam have time for a mini facial today?” or “Would madam care to try this new cream that will perform miracles for her skin?” and on and on.

Here we meet the stay at home Mums and wives with time on their hands willing and happy to spend a few hours browsing around the store.  Of course, during the browsing many do buy one or two or even more products.

A quick walk through the ladies wear department where the salesladies are all smiles while busily adjusting the racks of clothes and returning those that have been tried on and discarded to their rightful place.  Then shoes where the sales assistants have more time to chat and some even know my name.

Then having bought nothing, out the door, across the main street – busy with cars and buses, bikes and motorbikes – to another department store immediately opposite the first.

This is a middle of the road department store.  There’s a more hurried pace here.  Businesswomen and some men of course, on a lunch break with only 1 hour to eat and do any shopping they need.  Not for them the leisurely browsing through racks of clothes or stands of make up products or stacks of handbags and shoes.  They mostly know what they are looking for and in the limited amount of time they have they intend to find it.

While the perfume and make up counters are also sited at the front of the store, there doesn’t seem to be quite the need to assail one with products perfumes, make up etc.

I love the first store now that I am retired and can spend time seeking out a perfect product, a gift for a friend or something for me, but I understand the attraction of the second store to those people with limited time to spend shopping.

And the emergency that made it impossible to write a post yesterday?  We left the optometrists after an hour long appointment and had decided that we would now go on to pick up some picture framing, when the phone went asking my partner to go immediately to the surgeons for another consultation.

We went into a very busy waiting room.  We walked in and my partner gave his name – they were expecting him but we were told to take a seat. I looked around the waiting room which, apart from the phones ringing and the staff talking as they made decisions and small talk, was subdued. Here was a man in a motorised wheelchair talking on the phone, making arrangements to be picked up, a tearful woman just emerging from the examination room to speak with her friend/husband/partner.  Another couple were discussing an article in a magazine, yet another woman was paying the bill.  But it was a totally different atmosphere to either of the stores in which I had been earlier.

Eventually my partner was called and at the end of another hour was told that he would need an operation to rectify the problem. So what started out to be just another day in Paradise turned into a stressful day for him

Please note – I really don’t know if I have written an adverb free post and would appreciate any comments on this.

Writing 101: Give and Take

Day 7 and today’s challenge is:

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else. and

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!

I really struggled with this challenge and am not sure if I understood what the challenger was getting at but here is my attempt.


“I will not go” she said tearfully, as she stamped her little foot.

“But you must” said her mother. “You have already promised and Suzy will be so disappointed if you don’t go.”

No response; so in her most conciliatory tone her mother offered “Tell you what, I’ll pick you up afterwards and we’ll go to Tony’s for dinner and you can choose anything off the grown up menu”

Suddenly the child was all smiles and in her most beguiling voice she said “Really? Then I’ll have oysters and an enormous hamburger, fries, ice cream and a large glass of chilled champagne to go with it”.

Huh, sometimes we are hoisted by our own petard or maybe just second guessed by a three year old child.

I wrote something along these lines in a Trifecta Challenge some time ago.  You might be interested to read it

Post script – Thanks to those who commented and mentioned that the words were a little out of the usual vocabulary for many three year olds.  I accept this constructive criticism.  I was trying to show that the little girl was copying her mother in choosing what to eat (but perhaps not the hamburger and fries).  I would have been more believable had she said something like “and a large glass of that bubbly drink that you like so much”.

Writing 101: A Character-Building Experience


Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. 

Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

This year has been so full of new experiences and new people that I hardly know where to start. From moving in with my new partner to travelling with him to Europe, to returning to an almost completed new house and moving in, etc etc. Many and varied are the people I have met not least the tradesmen who have populated our lives for the past year. Builders – two here every day except weekends, plumbers one at a time but often here; electricians sometimes two sometimes only one; roofers; heating installers; equipment installers etc.

My partner’s family have played a large part in my life this year. His father in law who will be 99 in a week’s time and for whom we are throwing a party; his son, partner and their two delightful little girls, his sister and her grown children, his brother and family and his brother-in-law.

The family in Lake Como Italy who welcomed me, a complete stranger into their lives and their homes making me an instant member of their family – mother, father, 2 grown children with their own families.

And my own family have played a large part too.  My four grandsons who are growing up and making their own mark in the world.  They are my joy and delight.

But in this post I am going to concentrate on just one of the people whom I have met this year….

We arrived in Milan after a long flight from Hong Kong to be met by these two smiling Italians. I had never met them and was slightly apprehensive as they had been longtime friends with my partner and his late wife. But I didn’t have to worry. They immediately welcomed me, both to Italy and their family.

Paolo is a large bluff Sardinian. He is highly educated, has worked in many parts of the world and speaks several languages including French, German and some English.

His sparkling eyes tells you immediately that he is ready for some fun, or mischief as his wife puts it. He is quick to laugh, ready with a funny story from sometime/somewhere in his life and ever ready to help whether it be his wife or another member of the family, either extended or close, who needs help. He has a white close-cropped beard, trimmed by his wife who also trims his hair so he is always tidily, if slightly eccentrically presented.

He has an obsession with clothes and watches. He has been collecting watches for years – he says he started collecting as soon as he could afford to do so and now has some 200 plus watches. And he is always looking for more. When we were in Spain he would keep calling me to “Judi quick look watches”.

He has more clothes than his wife. Each time we stopped anywhere in Spain he bought a shirt.  We all went to Freiburg, Germany to visit his wife’s mother, and while she was visiting her on her own and we had an hour or so to fill in, he took us to his favourite department store where he bought two more shirts. And what bright coloured shirts they were. I should add one can always see Paolo in a crowd. He is big and has on these wild coloured shirts; easy to spot.  Incidentally, he couldn’t convince my partner to buy a similar shirt.

His voice is as big as he is. One day in the supermarket he couldn’t see his wife and called her. Movement in the huge supermarket came to a standstill while everyone looked to see who was calling and who he was calling.  Incidentally, from the time they first met and living in different countries, he called her Cherie and still does.

He is a coffee-aholic. 10.30am and everything stops for Paolo’s espresso which he drinks in one gulp while standing up at the counter and then he is ready to go. Not for him the leisurely coffee culture we are used to in New Zealand. Here coffee time is a social time when we meet friends for a catch-up; there it is a matter of swallowing the coffee, not wasting any time.  In deference to us, they occasionally sat down for coffee but as is usual in many parts of Italy if you take a seat it costs more. But coffee is a political thing in Italy – the price is incredibly low and we looked on in amazement as four coffees cost only 5 Euros or the equivalent of $NZ7.80. This wouldn’t buy you two cups of coffee in NZ.

“We do not live by coffee alone; order a danish.” Judith Baxter

He is a diabetic who has to inject himself regularly and he makes a joke of this while seriously following the doctor’s instructions. He loves “sweeties” but can no longer eat them. This doesn’t stop him from encouraging us to buy and eat them. Many times when we were with him he would see a shop selling cakes or sweets and call my attention to it. In Freiburg, there is a shop that sells the most amazing selection of chocolate that I have come across. Paolo stood at the window pointing out those that appealed to him and suggesting I buy some to taste.

He is a photographer of note and hauls his photographic equipment around with him even though he has a bad back and something wrong with a leg, both of which make walking difficult for him. This doesn’t stop him from entering into the spirit of things. The Alhambra set on a hillside with many steps left him physically tired but happy, as did Toledo. Just occasionally he would need to sit down but after very few minutes he was up again ready for whatever was planned.

He is an atrocious driver and so his wife does most of the driving,  But he is a loud backseat driver, giving her instructions even though she knows where she is going, and yelling at drivers who don’t respect the road laws or those drivers he thinks are “idiota”.

During our sojourn in Europe, we used their home in Lake Como as a base, taking off for a couple of weeks and then coming back to spend time with my new Italian friends, then going off again and returning once again.   We enjoyed time with them in their home, in Germany, Spain and Switzerland. It would be fair to say they enhanced a holiday of a lifetime.  So thank you, Paolo and Marion, for putting up with us.

Writing 101: Be Brief

Friday came and went as did Saturday so now late afternoon on Sunday I am completing the Day 5 Challenge – and the challenge is: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Well, I wrote about a message on the pavement in an earlier post.  The message read:

I could write you a letter or sing you a song or I could just tell you
that I think of you all the time,

you are the air that I breathe and I love you.
I would have said yes if you had asked me.”

For many days following that I looked to see if there had been an answer to this poignant plea and then one day I came across this:

“I really do love you.  I will love you forever”and under that in a different hand was written
“I love you too.  If you marry me I will love you forever and ever until I die”.
And then as a further postscript in the first hand was written “YES! YES! YES!”

So whether our lovers are young, mature, gay or heterosexual I am glad that they found each other, and trust that they are still enjoying a loving relationship.


161 words that must surely qualify as a brief post as mine usually run into hundreds of words.

Writing 101: Serially Lost

Day 4 and the challenge is – Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. and Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

I have tried writing a serial before.  It was about two women and their hats and their adventures.  I really enjoyed that.  But now we are asked to write about a loss and then to make this the first in a three-post series,

So what to write about?  Apart from the great loss in my life, the next loss was that of my darling companion Miss Lotte. It was a beautiful summer day; I had just had lunch and was sitting down to a cup of tea and a new magazine when I heard this horrendous sound of someone in great pain.  I looked around and found my darling little Tibetan spaniel writhing on the ground.  She had been lying in the sun and once before she had been affected by the heat.  At that time the vet told me to pick her up and speak to her quietly so she would know all was well.  I did that but I could see we were in great trouble.  So I wrapped her in her blanket and drove to my vet.  Apparently, she was very near death – he didn’t know if she had eaten anything poisonous, unlikely as she was confined to our garden, or whether she had suffered a heart attack.

I left Miss Lotte at the vets and spent a miserable afternoon without my loving companion.  But I was allowed to pick her up some hours later.  She was to be kept quiet, no walks just rest and hopefully, all would be well.

Lotte sleeping after her trip to the vets.

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for Lotte and me.  She had to be put to sleep a few days later,  She suffered another major heart attack one evening and I had to take her to the emergency vet, where I was told that the best thing I could do for my darling was to let her go.  How sad that was.  But although she had a very short life it had been a happy and full life with me, my friends and grandsons who all loved her.

So I said goodbye to my friend.  And farewelled her with the words I used when my husband died – “Soar high; Fly free; Breathe easy”.

LotteLotte Baxter,
Loving friend, faithful companion
2006-2013  RIP














Writing 101 – Commit to a writing process

Day 3 and the challenge is

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you? and
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.”

Well I have been doing free writing for years. Ever since I read the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in 2005 (or there about) I have been writing what she calls Morning Pages.  I shared this idea with my clients when I was practising as a Life Coach and always in my seminars and courses, whatever I happened to be sharing with the group.  But I have never had the idea to pin the writing on a theme.  It was done each morning as soon as, or even before, I got up and it just was whatever came to mind.  Alas, that good habit has flown out of the window since my life changed so radically just one year ago.  Now there is somebody else to consider and his schedule to consider so my Morning Pages have been abandoned.

But turning to today’s challenge – what are my three favourite songs?

  1. Yesterday When I Was Young sung by Charles Aznavour.  This song brings me so many happy memories.  Living the life of a young mother in three different parts of the world; my lovely Dashing Young Scotsman who took me to many places, my two delightful now grown up children.  Happy happy memories of times now past.

But I have so many other favourite songs.  I love anything and everything sung by Diana Krall and Natalie Cole and Nat King Cole and and and….  So as you can see I cant list my favourits.  Oh April in Paris of course.  That takes me back to a time before children when we were two young people very much in love, with the world and the future before us.

So my allocated 15 minutes is up.  I shall set myself the task of building a habit of writing at least 15 minutes every day – I think I shall make it longer but who knows.

I have a resource by Judy Reeves called A Creative Writer’s Kit.  I used to refer to it often and particularly when I had no idea what to write about that day.  I highly recommend this.

Writing 101 : A Room with a View (or Just a View)


Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

So here goes.  The place to which I shall refer is the very small, rather strange apartment I occupied when I was in Florence last year.  I have told you how I sold the house, packed my belongings, said goodbye to family and friends and embarked on an adventure to the other side of the world.  To a city, I didn’t know, where I knew nobody and nor did I know the language.  Well as Mother used to say “God looks after fools.”

I arrived in Florence on a Sunday night when all the taxi drivers were taking the night off.  Well, that’s how it seemed to me for after finding the well-hidden taxi stand I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes for a cab to appear.

Having shown the taxi driver the address of the apartment we started on a long journey seemingly from one side of the city to the other.  I had been told that the fare should be around 20 Euros and it was 21 so I was happy.  So now I am outside the apartment building with not a soul in sight as the taxi driver takes his cab off into the night.  It was a very quiet area, no tourists, no bars or cafes and the door at which the cab driver had deposited me was not the right one.  So checking that I was in the right street, I quickly found the right apartment building.

I was met by Ornella the mother of the apartment owner.  Unfortunately, she spoke little or no English but with my little or no Italian we managed to make ourselves understood to each other.  She showed me around the apartment and then gave me a very quick tour of the neighbourhood and after introducing me to Guiliano my next door neighbour she took off carrying the basket containing her two chihuahuas,  I was left to my own devices in a strange country and I was all alone.

The apartment was on the ground floor of a five storey building.  There was no elevator and I could hear people running up and down the stairs, speaking and laughing and I just knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life.  I couldn’t even have coffee because there was no electric jug to boil the water and the lighter for the gas stove had run out of gas.  So after a glass of water, some grapes and a tomato I went to bed.

London and Florence 062

After a good nights sleep, I investigated the apartment.  It was quite small and at the front of the building.  The bedroom window was on the footpath and secured with shutters.  Unfortunately, it didn’t obscure the noise from the busy street outside.  The city had decided that this was the day to start repairing/resurfacing the road outside my bedroom window.

Florence Day 3 2013 001

As well as the rather large bedroom (perhaps Christiane the owner has parties or dances there) there is a living room with kitchen and dining facilities, a bathroom with shower hand basin loo and bidet.  Then in the corner of the living room, there is a staircase leading up to a mezzanine floor where there is a bed.  But one would have to crawl on one’s knees to get to the bed – there certainly is no standing room unless one were a hobbit. The French doors opened onto a rather neglected courtyard.  This was a suntrap and could have been a lovely place to sit and write my posts each day but..nowhere to sit.

I never did manage to use the washing machine nor did I have much success with cooking and most times the shower ran only tepid water, but I enjoyed the 3 weeks I spent in this quaint apartment.  It was unlike any other that I had been in and added greatly to the experience of an elderly lady, living alone in a suburb in Florence where everybody spoke Italian and very few had a few words of English.  But what an adventure.

I went back to the apartment in June with my partner.

Guilianno and family 1

Guiliano and family

With the girls at the pasticerria

We caught up with Guiliano and his family and with the girls at the patisserie where I had breakfast each day during my sojourn in Florence.  My neighbour was overcome with joy at seeing me again and the girls in the patisserie remembered me too.  So that was a great afternoon.

And while this was a very pleasant place to stay, now that I have been back I shall keep it in my memory store and bring it out from time to time over the coming years.











Challenge – Writing 101

The first Challenge –

Writing 101: Unlock the Mind.

Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

So here goes.

If you have followed me before, or if you have read some of my posts,  you will know that for the first two years of blogging I managed to write a blog every day.  Then things changed.  I decided that my life was going nowhere and it was time for a change.

So almost overnight it seemed, the house was put on the market and sold, the Beautiful Miss Bella (my companion Toy Poodle) was found a place to stay while I adventured abroad and then, wouldn’t you know it, Fate stepped in.  I met an acquaintance from some 30 years ago.  His wife had died, my husband had been dead for some 15 years and we started to meet occasionally for coffee, a drink or dinner.

The time came for me to head off to Florence where I had arranged to lease an apartment for 3 months with the plan to learn to speak Italian while there.  I had sourced a school where the learning was intensive – 6 hours each day, dinner most nights and outings at the weekend – all (or as I understood it most) conducted in Italian.

My sister in London was expecting me to come visit her first and it was decided that she would accompany me to Florence for a couple of weeks as I settled into a strange city where I knew no-one and didn’t speak the language.

This is where Fate took a hand.  I hadn’t really expected the house to sell so quickly or for the new owners to want possession in a couple of weeks.  So that left me homeless and with a few weeks to fill in before my odyssey started, I arranged with a friend to stay with her.  But no, here comes Fate again.  My re-acquainted (is there such a word)  friend suggested that I should go and stay with him for the four weeks before I left for London.  This seemed a good idea and so the decision was made.

My family was used to my popping off overseas from time to time and only finding out when I would come home again on receipt of an email from a far away place.  My new friend was amazed that I was planning a trip to a place I really didn’t know (well I had been there for three days in the past) , on my own, not speaking the language and knowing nobody.  He had been married to the same woman for over 40 years and I don’t think they had done much on the spur of the moment preferring instead to plan ahead.

So I lived with my friend for the next four weeks and it was all very pleasant.  We took the Beautiful Miss Bella to her new home and apart from the first night when I was there she has settled in beautifully.  Well what else to expect when she is loved by her new owner.  This was to be shared ownership of the dog but it has devolved into her being with her new owner for keeps.

The day dawned when I was to leave and fond farewells were exchanged, together with a promise that my new friend would join me in Florence if and when the house that he was building was sufficiently complete to allow him to leave.  Incidentally, this never happened.

My few weeks in London were great.  I revisited all the places of my childhood with my sister but there was a shadow over this – they (the medical fraternity) thought she had a heart attack and refused her permission to fly.  So with much trepidation and wondering what I was thinking about – a 75-year-old woman taking off into the unknown on her own, I left for Florence.


My journey over the next few weeks is continued in  a separate book – “An Adventure of an Aged Lady”