A Place in the Sun

After the awful happenings in Paris yesterday, it seems somehow wrong to be celebrating such beautiful weather in our peaceful country.  But we are not being lulled into a false sense of security.  Terrorism and evil can hit anywhere at any time.  But for now, with our thoughts on those affected by the outrage in Paris, and as we switch off the radio and put aside the newspaper we will enjoy this lull in our busy lives in our place in the sun

IMG_1947

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome Another Year

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

2014 was a busy and traumatic year for most of the world.  Terrorism seems to be gaining the upper hand.  We saw all those school girls kidnapped in Nigeria, uproar in the middle east, riots and protests across the US, aircraft lost either vanishing into thin air or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So we hope that 2015 will be a better time for all of us who inhabit this wonderful world.

So now it is the beginning of the second year of my new life.  I have been so lucky to have a second chance at love – I almost said life and love but I need no second chance at life.

I have always said I have lived a blessed life.  A long and mostly happy marriage, two adult children and four fantastic growing up grandsons, who could ask for more?  And then some 18 months ago into my life sailed this new love.

I have written about 2014 and what a busy year that was.  My sister came from London for five weeks, we went to Hobart to visit the Museum of New and Old Art.  We went to Europe for three and half months and saw so many things that if my partner hadn’t taken 18,00 plus (yes in excess of eighteen thousand) photos I wouldn’t remember half of what we saw and did  Then we moved house with all the attendant hiccups that brings.  And then suddenly it was Christmas.

Our plans were for a quiet Christmas but the best laid plans and all that.  We had visitors for the weekend before Christmas, friends with three of their adult daughters, then on the 30th my daughter and her two boys came for a prolonged lunch and then it was Christmas Eve.  The other two grandsons visited and exchanged gifts and stayed for lunch and a friend who was to spend Christmas with us arrived.  That day we heard from my partner’s son that they “were all looking forward to spending the day with you”.  So what was to be just three of us and my partner’s aged (99 year old) father in law turned out to be a celebration of 10 people.  But it was fun.

And it didn’t stop there.  Friends for lunch, friends for dinner, dinner with partner’s son and family for New Year’s Eve, a visit to friends at the beach   and in the middle of all this, the 99 year old fell and smashed his face and ended up in hospital.

Tired panda

And of course, Christmas is in the summer here.  Most people are on holiday and we have had a constant stream of visitors since.  But hey – who’s complaining!  We are having fun and the weather is co-operating so barbecues are the order of most days.

So I am going into 2015 with a happy heart and full of excitement for the year ahead.  We are planning a less eventful year but anything can happen to change those plans.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
― Douglas Adams,
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

What I Need To Know

Way back in January 2012 I wrote a post entitled All I Need To Know in which I said that all I needed to know was in the story of Noah’s Ark.

Noah's arkSince then I have become even more convinced of the wisdom of Old Noah.  In the two years since I wrote that post my life has been totally turned around.  I no longer live alone in my old villa.  Instead I live in a brand new house with my partner.

I re read the post and thought how well my life has gone in the past couple of years and how apt Old Noah’s thoughts and actions are still to us in the 21st Century.  We can all learn from him.

In the earlier post I listed what I had learned and now I would like to comment on some of the items in that list.

  • I did listen to the voice within when friends told me I was making a mistake selling my house and going away for an indeterminate time.  I went to Florence and
  • I followed my intuition.
  • I made my preparations in advance – I put the house on the market, contacted the travel agent and booked an apartment in Florence.
  • My life was built on a strong foundation and my little house had withstood all that had been thrown at it for more than a hundred years,
  • Even though my possessions were in a storage unit that was set alight, the things that were important to me were stored in heavy plastic boxes and they survived.
  • Well I have chosen my companions well and
  • I love my companions and fellow travellers.
  • And some of these travellers aka my children I set free to return as and when they wished.
  • Yes, I did listen to other people’s opinions but always made my own decisions.
  • I learned that it is better to live with somebody else than living alone.  But I also learned to be selective when making such an important decision.
  • I make time for quiet meditation which nurtures my soul.
  • I embraced many new experiences since writing the original post not least being alone in Florence and not speaking the language.
  • I was brought up in England and have always loved the feel of the gentle rain on my face.
  • And I also love the sunshine and notice how differently people behave when the sun is shining.
  • I volunteered at the Hospice and continue to believe I got more from the experience than anyone at the Hospice did.
  • I have accepted the assistance offered by others – I hope this acceptance has been gracious.
  • I know that there will be hard times interspersed with the sunshine and light.
  • I have known for a long time that we share this planet with a myriad of other creatures both large and small, and we don’t must share the bounties with them
  • I continue to nurture an attitude of gratitude.  I am very aware of how very lucky I have been all my life.
  • I know that one wo/man with a a strong belief can overcome and succeed in spite of the odds – here in New Zealand we have Beverley Pentland who was an advocate against fireworks sales and had legislation brought to Parliament – raising the minimum age for purchasing fireworks to 18 years – restricting the sale period to four days from 2 November to 5 November – limiting the decibel level a firework can produce to no more than 90 decibels.
  • And I love fish.

This proves to me that I can and will continue to learn for the rest of my life.

Butterflies

A Year In The Life of …

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

Well once again I have fallen badly behind.  My excuse?  We have had a very busy time this year and are only now finding time to do the things we enjoy – and I certainly enjoy writing my blog.

The year started with a hiss and a roar and I related much of it in a post in April.

Then it was off to Europe for three months.  What a lot of fun that was.  We have friends in Como and made this our base for our travels.  Coming back to Como to welcoming friends (and a washing machine) was great.  These people have been my partner and his family’s friends for years and so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to go to Como.  And I am so glad that I did.  They welcomed me with open arms and within a few days I felt one of the family. We enjoyed our time with these people and their family.  Three little grandsons were around almost every day and Claudio aged 3 was teaching me English.  His constant plea was ‘Storia Judith”  Well of course it was a picture book but as I know little or no Italian and he knows no English,  story reading time was hilarious.  He kept correcting me and I don’t know how many times he told me “pompiere” was the word for fireman.  “No no” he would say and fall about laughing at my pronunciation.  What a joy he was.

We had lunch with friends of our host and hostess at a lovely villa on the hills above Lake Como.  A dazzlingly beautiful day, great fun although much of the conversation went over our heads.

Venice (of course) beckoned as did Tuscany, Spain, France and the UK.  Three months is a long time to be away but hardly enough time to do all the things we wanted to do.  A visit to Germany to meet our friend’s mother who is 93 years old.  A pleasant day indeed.

In Switzerland we had lunch with our hosts’ son who lives in Como and works in Lugano.

We spent a couple of weeks in Spain with our hosts and then went on to Barcelona for 9 days on our own.

Tuscany of course, was a delight.  We stayed in a lovely converted farmhouse five minutes from San Gimignano for almost a week discovering and rediscovering the countryside and lovely towns and villages.  Florence called again and this time we found ourselves in a 15th Century converted farmhouse owned by a delightful young couple and only a ten minute bus ride from Florence.  I have said before that Fiesole is one of my most favourite places in this wonderful world.  I waxed lyrical (?) about Fiesole when I stayed in Florence last year.

And this year we visited my favourite spots in Florence having somebody to share these things with at last.

We came home after our trip to Europe with the prospect of moving house looming.  We were still in the brother-in-law’s house but after a few days back here I organised the removal company to deliver the furniture.  What a huge job unpacking all that was.  Forty six years of living in one house had my partner moving boxes and boxes and boxes of belongings.  My furniture and effects?  They were and are, still in storage.  Note to self –  make a decision about this..soon.

But now after three months we are totally settled into our new abode.  My stuff is still in storage and by the way, talking of storage, the arsonist who set fire to the storage facility at the beginning of April has been charged and is currently being tried.  Would you believe he has pleaded Not Guilty even though there is CCTV coverage of him entering the facility complete with petrol can.  Well let’s see the outcome of this trial – what a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“You can have the other words-
chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity.
I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly,
but I’ll take it. ”

― Mary Oliver

Note Mary Oliver has long been one of my idols.  So today we have two of her quotes and the one at the beginning of this post is my all time favourite.


							

Writing 101: Your Voice Will Find You

This is the assignment I have been putting off because I really don’t know what I am being asked to do.  The assignment from October 2 is:

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice

For several months I didn’t write a post.  As John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”  But what exciting and fun filled months they were.

I did pen a post when I was in Italy. We had been to Venice and were looking forward to going to Spain with our Italian friends who live in Como.  We started in Madrid and just happened to be there when the two local soccer teams played each other in the  football Champions League semi final.  Real Madrid won but we were assured by almost everyone we met that the other team Atletico de Madrid was the better team and should have won. Anyway, the excitement was felt by all even those of us who are not soccer fanatics.  I made the mistake of buying a Real Madrid scarf when our guide took us to see the stadium – my son quickly put me right on that score;  but my soccer mad grandson graciously accepted the scarf on our return to NZ.

Then the next day we went to Toledo a fantastic town built on several levels and dating back to Roman times.  We saw mosques, churches and synagogues and were told that the three cultures lived peaceably side by side for many centuries.  We wondered aloud what has happened to our world to make this impossible today.  Are we all too caught up in ourselves to consider the next person?  Is it possible to return to those more peaceful times or is it too late?

We went to the Prado museum and saw a wonderful display of modern and ancient art.  Here we saw the Hieronymus Bosch “The Garden of Earthly Delights” – truly amazing.  This is a tryptich with so much in it that I stood transfixed until my companions called to move me on to the other fantastic paintings housed in the   I hadn’t heard of Hieronymus Bosch until I started reading the books by Michael Connelly with Harry Bosch as his protagonist.  Good reads by the way.

We saw many other paintings including Diego Velázquez’ ‘ “The Family” that I had seen shown in books but here was the original.  Obviously, it was so much better than any reproduction I had seen.  I now have a mouse pad at the side of the computer showing The Family.

After lunch we went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which is very close to the Prado..  More art. We were told that this was the collection of the Baron’s wife.  With over 1,600 paintings the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection.  Here was a dazzling display of Old Masters, 14th and 15th centuries Italian, Flemish and Dutch painters, and among other things  a collection of North American art from the 18th and 19th centuries.  This last we were told is unique in European Art Galleries.

We spent several hours there and I could have stayed all day.  I wanted to return but we had only a few days in Madrid. We really enjoyed our time in Madrid.

 The next stop was Seville. We took a boat ride on the river on a lovely spring evening and oohed at the sights. One afternoon we  spent several hours  wandering around the old part of the city, getting lost and found again.  We came across an old market where all sorts of fresh food was on sale and we stopped for coffee and chocolate cake at a very small bar inside the market.  The owner came and insisted that my partner try a Spanish wine from a local winery and I had to try Manzanilla (?).  Very pleasant half hour was spent there talking with the owner and his son.

We went to Cordoba and again marvelled at a town that had been in existence since pre-Roman times.  And again we saw how the three cultures managed to live side by side in peace and harmony.

Then Granada which has to be my favourite of the cities we had visited in Spain.  Of course we had to visit the Alhambra – a 3 hour walking trip that wasn’t nearly long enough to see everything.  We managed to get left behind the group as my companion was busy doing what he does on holiday, taking pictures.  Never mind we managed to connect with the bus before it took off for the city again.

And then when our friends had to go home, we left for Barcelona.  But this has to have a post to itself.  The buildings, the food, the people all were exceptional.

Writing 101: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

This was the challenge for October 8th and it’s now the 12th.  But after this I have only one more to catch up.  So –

On this free writing day, remember the words of author Anne Lamott: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

I want you to let it all hang out. So does writer Anne Lamott. At the risk of turning The Daily Post into an Anne Lamott fangirl blog, no one motivates me the way she does. Every time you sit down to write and think your idea is too stupid, too uninteresting, too random, or too unoriginal to be committed to the page, let Anne give you a gentle but firm nudge.

Four-hundred words. One at a time. Go.

Rain on leavesThe sun is shining and summer most certainly is on its way. But each day this week I have thought that only to have the day “ turn to custard”. Large black clouds suddenly appear in this fantastic blue sky. I scurry out to retrieve the washing before it rains. And then, having got it all in the sun reappears and I could hang it out again if I wanted to. I choose not to and pop it into the dryer for a final dry off.

Lunch can be eaten outside. There is no wind and the sun is really warm on my face. I consider going inside for some sun cream but decide that as I am only going to be sitting for about 30 minutes I can just relax and enjoy the sun on my face.

Lunch is eaten and the daily newspaper beckons. I turn to the World news and see there is more mayhem, killing and abuse around the world. But what’s this? The new Mrs Clooney wants to help the Greeks bring home the Elgin Marbles. The Marbles have resided in the British Museum for many many years. It seems to me that they have always been there but I know this not to be the case.

Each time I go to London I head to the Museum and one of my first stops is the Marbles. I marvel at the intricate work of those long ago carvers. All now moved into the bounds of history.

My next port of call is always the Rosetta Stone. What another marvel this is. I stand among the crown just looking at it. Around me there is a cacophony of voices in so many languages and I wonder what they are all saying. Are they as mesmerised as I am at this ancient piece of writing on a stone?

I turn to the crossword section of the newspaper. This is where I relax. So with pen in hand I start, but true to form of the last few days, the sun goes behind a black cloud, the wind suddenly picks up and the first spots of rain appear. So that’s the end of lunch and as I pick up the newspaper and pack up the lunch things I muse that this will no doubt be the way of the weather for the next few weeks. We are not into summer yet.

Writing 101: Hone Your Point of View

I am now so far behind that I am just writing working my way through the Challenges.

This is the Challenge for October 7.

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

I was sitting on the stoop waiting for Charlie and Joe to turn up so that we could go fishing.  As soon as we had finished our chores that our parents set for us, the three of us would get together and go out to our special fishing hole.  As it was an overcast day I thought it would be good for fishing.  I thought if the others didn’t turn up soon, I would just go off on my own.  I really quite liked it when there was only me.  I could think about all the things that were buzzing around in my head without having to explain them to the others.

There was no sign of the others and I was just deciding to go without them when I looked across the street and saw old Mrs Pauley standing on her stoop staring down the road. Maybe she was waiting for somebody to turn up too.

Then there was a screech of brakes and a large car drew up, followed by a police van. All the car and van doors opened. There must have been 10 or 12 men all together. I wondered why they were there.

A rather tall, fat man went over to Mrs Pawley and handed her a paper. Whatever he said to her made her cry. I could hear her saying “No please don’t” but the man only said “I’m sorry. It has to be done” and he turned his back and went to talk to the other men.

Then a strange thing happened. The men started to move all Mrs Pawley’s furniture out into the front yard. There was a table and some chairs, a couple of armchairs and a sofa and a bed. The men kept going in and out of the house while Mrs Pawley stood crying quietly on the stoop and watched them.

This coming and going seemed to go on forever. Charlie and Joe arrived and stood beside me as we watched what was going on across the street.

I knew Mrs Pawley. She had always lived across the street. I had heard my mother and father talking about her one day. About how her husband had died suddenly; how her six boys had all moved away and how she was finding it difficult to survive with no money coming in. They also wondered where her boys were and why they weren’t helping their mother at this time.

We didn’t have much ourselves but Mother and the other neighbours took her food when they had any extra. I had been with Mother one day to take over some bread she had baked the day before. Mrs Pawley was grateful but also embarrassed at having to take the offered bread.

The men continued to bring out Mrs Pawley’s things. They looked a poor collection sitting in the front yard. And then it began to rain. Charlie, Joe and me, we ran across the street to help her cover her things. She had some blankets but nothing that would keep the rain off. So we covered what we could with the blankets.

When the men finally had everything out of the house they nodded to Mrs Pawley and left her there standing on the stoop, still holding the paper that the tall fat man had given her and with all her possessions sitting in the rain in the front yard.

At that time, Mother came home from visiting her own mother. She saw what had happened across the street and ran over to Mrs Pawley. I don’t know what they said to each other – Mother spoke very quietly and Mrs Pawley continued to cry. Then Mother took Mrs Pawley gently by the arm and brought her over to our house. I am sure she would have made tea as that was Mother’s answer to everything. “A nice cup of tea will help us sort this out” she was always saying. Probably she said the same to Mrs Pawley.

But on her way into the house, she stopped and said “Off you go boys. Go fishing. See if you can bring something back for dinner.” She then closed the door into the house and we took off. We couldn’t stop talking about what had happened and why Mrs Pawley’s furniture was put out of the house. We also talked about what would happen now. Where would she live and what would happen to all that furniture.

It had been a good day for fishing and we had caught enough fish to be shared between the three families.  By the time we came back with our catch, the furniture had been removed into a neighbour’s garage and Mrs Pawley was sitting in our kitchen talking quietly while Mother made dinner. Mrs Pawley stayed with us for a few days until one of her sons came to get her and take her to his home.

The last I saw of Mrs Pawley she was walking down the path towards a car with her son who had his arm around her. I did hear him say “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have come sooner and helped you sort out this mess.” And she said ……