Category Archives: Travel

December Comes In With A Flurry

Celebrating The 2017 Oil, Rocking Dog

Celebrating The 2017 Oil

With the advent of frosty mornings it’s hard to think that we were harvesting the olives in sub-tropical (well almost) temperatures a month ago. November saw us making the trip home with our precious olive oil cargo. Snow had fallen on some of the Swiss mountain peaks and there was a misty late autumnal stillness hanging heavily over the slate grey lakes. Travelling through Switzerland always makes me feel as if I am part of some spectacular railway set. Truly beautiful.

November has been busy. There have been some good things and some pretty rotten things. I’m always thinking of friends and family who have had very difficult situations to withstand. Some corners have been turned, whilst for others, corners still need turning. I hope the roads straighten out very soon for all those travelling somewhat perilous journeys. X

The good bits in November were a lovely trip to London to see Future Islands at the Brixton Academy. LOVED! I also managed to squeeze in lots of Biddy (as in old) cuddles with little Douglas, because put simply grandchildren are for cuddling! Sorrel, Doug’ and I also managed to squeeze a visit to the V&A. I wanted to see the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize exhibition. The prize was brought about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in collaboration with the V&A and The Craft Council. I was particularly keen to see the winning exhibit by Phoebe Cummings who had made a botanical fountain from raw clay. As the exhibit has not been glazed or fired the water will gradually dissolve the clay, the fountain will therefore be ever-changing. Anyone expecting the water spout at Chatsworth or the fountains at Versailles may be slightly disappointed. On this visit I was fortunate enough to witness the once daily 2 minute water feature. Hmmmmm! it’s a watery dribble, however the clay work is truly exquisite.

There were 1,500 applicants for the £10,000 prize, and the exhibition showcases the twelve finalists. I particularly loved Celia Pym’s darning exhibit. Over the last ten years she has darned other peoples clothing and feels a real compulsion to try a jumper on that has been placed on the back of a chair! On January 6th you can go to the V&A for a free workshop with Celia to discuss how to tackle a hole in a favourite garment.

Romilly Saumarez Smiths work also caught my attention. I loved the cabinet of her treasures. The artist is fascinated by stories contained within found objects. Suffering from a neurological disease, she is unable to use her own hands and works alongside a trio of jewellers to translate her ideas. Smith uses precious metals and other materials to sensitively work in with items such as Roman pins, medieval thimbles and coral. Her exhibit was like being in a rather good sweet shop and being unable to choose one piece, you wanted the lot!

November saw Rocking Dog sew a batch of 2017 “Cabin in the Wood” advent calendars and stockings utilising vintage hand embroidered festive table linen. Beloved Bernina has been busy with other sewing projects and has been joined on the workbench by a snazzy overlocker. I will sit down and embrace its neat and clever functions.

There was a sale at Court House Farm, Portishead. What a beautiful event but just why oh why do I get so anxious selling?  On the buying front I desperately tried to resist buying more vintage baubles but alas my decoration addiction got the better of me!

There has been a Rocking Dog huddle, lots of chat, a little crochet and the first batch of Rocking Dog mince pies. Thank you to all those who came and dropped money into the jolly tea pot for Fine Cell Work.

The last day of November saw us sharing a special deal lunch at The Pig at Bath with friends. The food was lovely and I was particularly intrigued by some pickled Chinese artichokes. They looked alarmingly like caterpillar chrysalis’s, but were delicious. A walk around the walled kitchen garden with the sun fading was quiet and inspirational.

So December has indeed come in with a flurry, and SO the festive madness begins!

Hoping you all have a wonderful weekend. Wrap up warmly and stay cosy! Love Rocking Dog x

PS Alright Michael it is time!

Umbrian November,Rocking Dog

Umbrian November

Umbrian Moon..,Rocking Dog

Umbrian Moon..

Hambrook Moon,Rocking Dog

Hambrook Moon

Making Calendars,Rocking Dog

Making Calendars

& Stockings,Rocking Dog

& Stockings

Court House Farm,Rocking Dog

Court House Farm

Delightful Darn,Rocking Dog

Delightful Darn

Dissolving Clay,Rocking Dog

Dissolving Clay

Little Boxes,Rocking Dog

Little Boxes

The V&A Cafe,Rocking Dog

The V&A Cafe

Biddy's Boy!,Rocking Dog

Biddy’s Boy!

Go Girl!,Rocking Dog

Go Girl!

Pigging Out,Rocking Dog

Pigging Out

Legendary Mince Pie, Rocking Dog

Legendary Mince Pie

Let The Madness Begin!,Rocking Dog

Let The Madness Begin!

Remember Me Project- Day 2 WW1 War Graves, France

Cabaret Rouge Cemetery,Rocking Dog

Cabaret Rouge Cemetery

The Remember Me Project, researching names on the war memorial at Whiteshill Common, Hambrook took me to France. The second day of cemetery visits dawned sunny, with blue skies and rich autumnal colours. Our first cemetery of the day was a visit to Le Touret. The cemetery commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers killed in this sector of the Western front from October 1914 until the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. I was able to place a poppy cross close to stone 17B for Pte Francis (Frank) Candy who died on 6th April 1915 whilst serving with the Gloucestershire Regiment. The cemetery was impressive in the early morning sunshine, and beyond the boundary walls there were field upon field of cabbages, cows and people working the land.

We then headed to The Guards Cemetery at Windy Corner, Cuinchy. The name Windy Corner was coined by WW1 troops to describe the cross roads at Cuinchy. Close to the landmark a house existed which served as a dressing station and battalion HQ. In time the cemetery sprang up beside this house. Of all the graves I visited I found Guardsman 19 year old Frank Henry Harcombes disconcertingly moving. He had been buried closely together with two fellow Grenadier Guardsmen who had died on the same day (17th March 1915). Seeing the three graves with no gaps between was poignant. There was sweet birdsong within the cemetery and the thoughtful planting for all year round colour (lupins, sedum, aubretia, rock roses, iris’s, roses, lambs ears and soldiers & sailors). Beyond the cemetery there was the hum of a tractor ploughing.

Much larger was the cemetery we visited next. Cabernet Rouge cemetery contains the graves of 7,650 British Empire servicemen. It’s name came about as a result of a small cafe which was eventually destroyed by heavy shelling in May 1915. The cafe was distinctive in that it was built of brick and had a red tiled roof. Other buildings in the village were mainly thatched. It is a seriously impressive cemetery and is almost spear shaped. Its designer Brigadier Sir Frank Higginson ( a former Canadian Army officer) was secretary to the Imperial War Graves Commission for 37 years and was granted his wish to have his ashes (1958) scattered in the cemetery together with those of his wife Violet (1962). In May 2000 the remains of an unknown Canadian soldier were taken from Cabaret Rouge and laid to rest at the foot of the National War Memorial in the Canadian city of Ottawa. I was at Cabaret Rouge to visit the grave of Sgt Charles Herbert Langley of 110th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action on 4th May 1918 aged 22yrs. He received the Military Medal in 1917. The cemetery is set in beautiful countryside and hay was being baled. There were chestnut and spruce trees outside the boundary walls and small conical Yews within.

We next found ourselves at La Targette British cemetery to visit the grave of 2nd Lieutenant Walter William Gibbs of 1st Survey Coy. Royal Engineers. He died on 22nd April 1918 aged 30 years. His life prior to the war sounds to have been an interesting one. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and for two years he was a member of the Bolivian Boundary Commission. He went on to Mozambique and was engaged on survey work for three years. In 1917 he obtained permission from Portuguese East Africa to return to England to enlist. He married shortly prior to leaving for France. The cemetery is a small intimate one with 638 WW1 graves and 3 WW2 graves. We witnessed wonderful autumnal tree colour in woods beyond the cemetery.The little British cemetery was rather dwarfed by the neighbouring French National Cemetery. Here 11,443 WW1 graves are sited together with over 500 WW2 graves.

Arras was our next stop to visit Faubourg D’Amiens cemetery designed by Edwin Lutyens. Here we would pay homage to three brave men. Lieutenant Eyon GA Bowen was killed on 8th September 1916 aged 23years. He served with 22nd Squadron Royal Flying Corps and his name is inscribed on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. Incidentally his name appears on memorials at Whiteshill Common, Winterbourne All Saints Churchyard, on the Braidlea Shield (housed in St Mary Magdalene Church, Stoke Bishop), Sherborne School and Nevern War Memorial. His father, Eyon George Rice Bowen also died in the course of WW1 (26th March 1916 aged 52 years) and is buried in the churchyard at All Saints, Winterbourne. Bowen seniors name is to be found on the Whiteshill and Winterbourne church memorial together with his sons.

Close to the Flying Services Memorial I found Rifleman Albert Hughes’s name on the Arras Memorial. He served with the London Rifle Brigade and died aged 28yrs on 28th March 1918. His name could be find high on Stone 11 Bay Number 9. The white pillared bay felt very serene and peaceful.The Memorial commemorates 35,000 British, South African and New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave. Most were killed during the Battle of Arras (9th April-16th May 1917)

Lastly it was time to find the grave of Private Frederick Graham Amos who was killed in action whilst serving with 5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment on 6th May 1917. His grave carried the inscription “Not gone from memory or love but gone to our father’s home above” Each letter for a personal inscription would have to have been paid for by a relative. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website carries records for inscriptions, burial details and a wealth of other information. This cemetery was really beautiful, unlike most other cemeteries its boundary walls were high, built of mellowed brick. Beyond the walls were large houses, and within, poplars and silver birch’s creating soft “borders” in front of the walls. It felt very tranquil and there was beautiful planting. The brick contrasted with the magnificence of the white marble Arras Memorial.

Our morning was drawing to a close, but not before a visit to Beurains Cemetery to visit the grave of Private Frederick Walker who prior to the war had worked as a labourer on a farm. He served with 6th Battalion, Somerset Regiment Light Infantry and died on 9th April 1917 aged 26yrs. This intimate little cemetery contains the graves of 317 British, 14 Canadian and 4 German servicemen. It was tucked in tightly by various farm buildings. It was another cemetery designed by Lutyens.

Our final port of call before heading for Switzerland was to visit the cemetery at Landrecies. Landrecies was the scene of a rearguard action in the retreat from Mons in August 1914. It was recaptured from the Germans in November 1918. This little cemetery contains the graves of 165 British soldiers who died in the last three months of 1918. When I came to the grave of William Luton I found it very poignant that he had been killed in action a mere 7 days before the Armistice. William had died on 4th November 1918 whilst serving with 1st/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, aged 22 years. The inscription on his grave read “He plucked the fairest flower and planted it in heaven”. The cemetery itself has a strong connection with the English town of Malvern due to the large number of soldiers from the area buried there. I loved this little cemetery, it was bordered on three sides by working allotments and there were dahlias, cabbages, zucchini and other crops to harvest. Within the low walled cemetery it was planted with four young cherry trees.

So, fifteen cemeteries visited, and twenty poppy crosses carefully placed during some really wonderful autumnal October sunshine. March 2018 will see Andyman and I attempt to visit the remaining fourteen cemeteries in France, paying homage to another seventeen servicemen whose names reside on the Whiteshill Common Memorial.

Au Revoir.

Sunrise Le Touret,Rocking Dog

Sunrise Le Touret

Pte Candy,Rocking Dog

Pte Candy

La Targette,Rocking Dog

La Targette

Another Cross,Rocking Dog

Another Cross

Flying Services Mem',Rocking Dog

Flying Services Mem’

Faubourg D'amiens,Rocking Dog

Faubourg D’amiens

Tucked Tightly,Rocking Dog

Tucked Tightly

German Graves,Rocking Dog

German Graves

Laid Together,Rocking Dog

Laid Together

The Remember Me Project – Remembrance Sunday 2017

Le Touret Cemetery,Rocking Dog

Le Touret Cemetery

As many of you will already know I am currently researching the WWI names on the Whiteshill Common Memorial in Hambrook. As the centenary of the end of WW1 approaches I am keen that the inscriptions on the memorial are “brought to life”. These names were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles, friends and fellow workers. Many of the fallen played cricket and football on the common, they attended school across the common, collected conkers, courted, ate picnics and participated in village life.

Following some initial research I decided somewhat rashly that I wanted to visit as many graves and memorials before the 2018 centenary. This is a post about my visit to France and Belgium. On this trip I visited the resting place/commemorative panel of 20 of those 53 sevicemen’s names on the Whiteshill Memorial.

Very naively I presumed that there were two or three huge cemeteries to bury/commemorate the war dead. How very wrong I was. There are indeed hundreds of cemeteries scattered across France, Belgium and further afield. In the course of this Remember Me Project I will eventually visit thirty one French and Belgian cemeteries. On this first visit in the course of a morning and afternoon I visited fifteen cemeteries and placed crosses on/by twenty graves/memorial plaques.

I used the Commonwealth Grave Commission website to plot and plan my visit to each cemetery. With their maps and grave/memorial references I wrote up a little plan of directions to reach each grave/memorial. Andyman and I then spent an evening plotting the sequencing of the cemeteries we planned to visit, pre-loading postcodes into the sat-nav. Poppies packed, we headed for le Shuttle. The Belgian cemeteries were those we visited first and it took very little time to reach Artillery Wood Cemetery following disembarkation at Calais. This cemetery was undergoing major restoration work to its boundary walls, but the graves remained undisturbed and with beautiful planting. Beyond the walls crops were growing, wind turbines were turning and life was simply going on. Percy Buckley of the Manchester Regiment was buried here (Feb 27th 1918 aged 20) My first cross was laid.

A visit to New Irish Farm Cemetery followed (Pte Charles Maggs Gloucestershire Regiment 27th August 1917 aged 32). Enlisting in Bristol this serviceman was killed in action at Ypres. The cemetery was named after a nearby farm, known to troops as Irish Farm. Pte Maggs’s front row grave overlooks fields, crops were being pulled and tractors were hard at work. Then it was onto Tynecot. Tynecot is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in the world. It is the resting place of 11,900 WW1 British Empire servicemen. Many of those buried there fell at Passchendaele. Meanwhile the Tynecot Memorial commemorates nearly 35,000 UK and NZ servicemen who died after August 1917 and whose graves are not known. Firstly I placed a cross on the grave of Pte Sidney T Marks, Royal Berkshire Regiment 1st August 1917 aged 27. Then there were three names to find on the memorial panels Pte George H. Andrews, Gloucestershire Regiment, 23rd August 1917, Pte George Biggs,Gloucestershire Regiment, 9th October 1917 and Lt.Colonel James Hugh Coles D.S.O, 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, 24th April 1917 aged 33yrs. Tynecot was preparing for the New Zealand National Commemoration for the Battle of Passchendaele in its centennial year. 520 New Zealanders are buried at Tynecot whilst many more are commemorated on the memorial.The cemetery looked beautiful with roses in shades of deep red, pink and an amazing orange colour. Soldiers & Sailors, Geranium, spiky grasses, pinks, sedum, auricula’s, Elephant ears also provided botanical interest for all year round colour. On the grassy banks leading into cemetery British Legion poppies had been planted with poignant personal messages and would remain there for 101 days.

The lovely cemetery at Hooge Crater was next on my visit list. Hooge Crater was the site of a chateau and stables and the area saw very fierce fighting throughout WW1. Pte Clifford Percy Lloyd who served with the Machine Gun Corps is buried here and was killed in action on 22nd August 1917 aged 19 yrs. The cemetery looked beautiful with lavender balls and young Silver Birch trees. Beyond the low boundary walls cabbages were being grown and cows were grazing. As we walked back up towards the Cross of Sacrifice a group of New Zealanders were singing a lament. It really bought a lump to my throat.

Bedford House Cemetery was a very naturalistic cemetery to visit, with a bullrush lined stream, little bridges, lily pads and what appeared to be a grassy bunker. Beyond the low boundary walls cows grazed and tractors ploughed the rich earth. The cemetery is the resting place of Pte Arthur Young who was killed in action on 21st September 1917 whilst serving with the Gloucestershire Regiment. Prior to enlisting Arthur was employed as a labourer on a golf course near Bristol.

Another cross was laid at Wytschaete Cemetery for Pte William Harmer who was killed in action on 7th June 1917 aged 25yrs whilst serving with the Worcestershire Regiment. The inscription on his grave read “I shall go to him but he will not return to me mother” This cemetery had a lovely backdrop of evergreen and deciduous woodland and the cemetery felt very much part of the village.

Merville Cemetery saw me lay a cross on the grave of Pte Francis Albert Cox who died on the 8th July 1918. He served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and a war diary reported that on 8th July fourteen were killed and sixteen were wounded by an aerial bomb. It is likely that Pte Cox was one of those casualties. The Commonwealth grave cemetery is situated right next to the Merville town cemetery. Compared to the towering and rather macabre black granite graves the serenity and simplicity of the white Commonwealth graves was rather lovely.

The final cemetery visit for Day 1 was to visit the grave of Pte Percy Jones who lies in Rue du Bacquerot-13th London. We initially mistakenly visited another Rue du Bacquerot cemetery (No 1), one without the prefix 13th London. However our mistake led us to the sweetest cemetery with farm track in between its two halves. One section contained the graves of Indian soldiers, there was a predominance of sweet scented pink roses and the graves were carved with Indian script. It was charming. Further down the road we found Percy’s resting place. This cemetery was small and intimate with less than 200 Commonwealth graves. Pte Jones died on 16th April 1916 aged 24yrs whilst serving with 10th Battalion South Wales Borderers.

It was time to rest our weary heads after this 1st day whistle-stop tour. Many thanks to Andyman for all the twists and turns in the road and for finding all the cemeteries.

My account of the 2nd day of cemetery visits will appear in a further post this week. If any relatives would like photo’s of graves/cemeteries please do not hesitate to get in touch. I would also like to appeal at this point for any information that could be useful for The Remember Me Project. I really would like to try and build a picture of the lives of these servicemen before and during the time they were called up to fight for their country. Perhaps too, any interested parties could contact me to register their interest in a Rocking Dog Vintage Tea planned for Sunday November 11th 2018. Please email me, lizferg@btinternet.com

Thank you.

We will especially remember them this Remembrance Sunday.

Whiteshill Memorial,Rocking Dog

Whiteshill Memorial

Plotting & Planning,Rocking Dog

Plotting & Planning

Precious Cargo,Rocking Dog

Precious Cargo

20 Crosses,Rocking Dog

20 Crosses

Tynecot Poppies,Rocking Dog

Tynecot Poppies

Name Upon Name,Rocking Dog

Name Upon Name

La Targette Cemetery,Rocking Dog

La Targette Cemetery

Buried Together,Rocking Dog

Buried Together

Life Goes On Over The Wall,Rocking Dog

Life Goes On Over The Wall

Rocking Dog Holiday Snaps

Salami In Spello,Rocking Dog

Salami In Spello

A while ago I promised a white post. It seems really on trend to produce beautiful faded pearlescent blogs. Rocking Dog loves colour but I challenged myself to do a post using less eye poppingly colourful snaps! With temperatures in Umbria hot enough to want to whip off the pool cover, there was certainly no shortage of colour. Skies were lapiz blue, ploughed farmland rich terracotta and trees were clinging onto their beautiful yellow and rust cloaks.

In my collection there are many photo’s of gaudily lovely geraniums, harvests of rosy apples, pomegranates, sun dappled buildings and of course THE olives! Yet this post shows off timeworn hand painted ceiling friezes, ancient stone masonry, Umbrian autumn mists and delectable Umbrian produce.  Also included in my white post is the pristine white marble
Flying Services Memorial at Arras, France.

In this post I think I should have included our poor garden. With the intense heat of the summer the “grass” resembled Texan buffalo herding scrubland. Soon it will be seeded with a coarse and very hardy Argentinian grass. We are hopeful it will look green and verdant when spring arrives.

During our stay we used the chainsaw, electric hedge trimmer, branch lopper, wheelbarrow and rake. Alas the hammock remained unused and the telescope never got to view twinkling constellations. One day!

Number 5 now has a beautiful wood-burning stove (thank you to Firebox, St Werburgh’s for supplying our Mendip Woodland, it looks great). The stove installation necessitated  the building of a new chimney. I couldn’t help thinking that the style of chimney probably hadn’t changed since Roman times. Testing the stove for the first time, felt like watching for the smoke from the Vatican when choosing a new pope!

In between heavy duty gardening and olive picking there were opportunities to explore “new” hilltop towns, to take part in the bread & oil festival and to come together for the village halloween party. There was also the small matter of partaking in a number of wine tasting evenings in preparation for an Umbrian wedding (the daughter of good friends). It was such a good excuse to sample Umbrian grapes in a glass.

Friends and family came to pick and to ultimately taste the new olive oil. It was lovely to share the sun and spend time enjoying autumn in Umbria. Real Live Rocking Dog very quickly realised that he could gather extra food rations if he hovered under baby Douglas’s high chair!

We had a truly lovely time and the village couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. It really is time to learn the language. Ciao!

 

Arras Memorial,Rocking Dog

Arras Memorial

Fortress, Cortona,Rocking Dog

Fortress, Cortona

Morning Walk,Rocking Dog

Morning Walk

Lovely Lighting,Rocking Dog

Lovely Lighting

Timeworn Numero,Rocking Dog

Timeworn Numero

Ceiling Whimsy,Rocking Dog

Ceiling Whimsy

Cheese,Rocking Dog

Cheese

Gelato,Rocking Dog

Gelato

...& Aragosta!,Rocking Dog

…& Aragosta!

Cake, Crochet, Salsa and Atilla The Hun

NT Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake.Rocking Dog

NT Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

A small but perfectly formed huddle congregated at the kennel last night. Crochet, cross stitch and chat went on as did cutting a freshly baked Rocking Dog cake. This months bake was from my newest cookery tome “Sweet” by Yotam Ottolenghi (yes that old chestnut!) & Helen Goh. I love the cover of the book, meanwhile there are some truly enticing recipes beyond its jam swirled cover. I surmise that some recipes would need an afternoon of completing layers, compotes, biscuit bases and delectable ornamentation. I needed something quick, there was poor old tooth extracted Real Live Rocking dog to rescue from the vet!

Lemon and poppy seed cake was chosen for the September huddle. The cake was easy to make and rather curiously included double cream in its makeup. After 40 or so minutes in the oven a lemon glaze was poured onto its golden top and it then left to cool. Simple!

As ever I didn’t do any sewing or anything creative but I did talk about my fast approaching visits to Belgian and French war cemeteries for the Rocking Dog “Remember Me” project. I didn’t quite realise what a feat it was going to be to pay homage to the local WW1 heroes. There are now currently 22 French cemeteries to visit, together with 4 Belgian cemeteries. Looking for a place to “camp up” for two nights Andyman and I thought it may be convenient to stay in Lens. Looking at airbnb’s in the area we thought it rather strange that everything looked picturesquely alpine chalet. Ah yes the snow, the wooden cabins, pines and roaring fires belonged to Lens, Switzerland and not Lens, France! Back to the drawing board!

Keep Calm & Carry On Karen did come to the huddle and gave us the latest on the house renovation. There were photo’s of buckets catching rain water, tile-less rafters, dust, Atilla The Hun (garian) builder and general chaos. We are in awe of you Karen and your faith in that all will be well. We can all understand your concerns about the 1930’s pump action yacht toilet which eccentric husband has enthusiastically bought. Di’ gave us the grim news that Christmas has arrived in John Lewis, is it just me or does the Christmas frenzy get earlier each year? “Strictly”, “Bake Off”, my being expelled from a salsa class, hoarding relatives, extension plans, olive picking and the joys of being a doctor in 2017 all provided lively discussion subjects.

As for the cake, well it was rather delicious especially eaten with a spoonful of glorious Greek yoghurt. We bow to you Yotam and Helen.

Thank you huddlers you were great company on a dark and wet September night. Love Rocking Dog x

PS No October huddle due to those pesky olives! We will chattily reconvene in November for mulled wine infused creativity.

Naughty Bakery!,Rocking Dog

Naughty Bakery!

Recipe,Rocking Dog

Recipe

Loads Of Lemons,Rocking Dog

Loads Of Lemons

The Glaze,Rocking Dog

The Glaze

The C Word,Rocking Dog

The C Word

Vintage Appreciation,Rocking Dog

Vintage Appreciation

Soundtrack Of A Holiday

Brando Lives On! Florence,Rocking Dog

Brando Lives On! Florence

Having just arrived back from Umbria I still haven’t been able to rid myself of the soundtrack of the holiday! Do you find that there is always a tune that is playing whenever you jiggle radio stations, or step into bars or cafes? Often these songs are slightly annoying or indeed very annoying. In years to come you hear the tune again and it immediately transports you back to the holiday destination where you couldn’t help humming or singing it at full pelt. Our soundtrack this autumn in Umbria was somewhat embarrassedly Bruno Mars’s “Versace on the Floor”! Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” takes me to my teenage French exchange trip and to a cafe with a juke box. Newquay, “I’m In Mood For Dancing” by the Nolans, and my first holiday with Andyman in Umbria (1981) Barclay James Harvest’s album “Eyes of the Universe”. There were holidays with The Proclaimers “Lord, I Want To Be a Christian”, All Saints with “Never Ever” and The Bangles “Eternal Flame”etc.. I expect it will be a few days before I lose Versace from my head. Very hopefully I won’t lose the memory of our girls dancing around the Umbrian kitchen with baby Doug’in arms!

We found our Umbrian garden incredibly parched and somewhat resembling Little House on the Prairie. We have been reassured that our “grass” will somehow green up again. The poor Italians have had a scorchingly hot year and it has had a devastating effect on the crops. Vines hung heavy with fruit which I photographed last year tell a very different story this autumn. It has been difficult for the locals to irrigate crops and many wells have completely dried up. In our garden we are lucky to have some olives to pick when the start of November comes. There was leaf clearing to do and a pomegranate and fig tree to plant. Thankfully heavy rains came on our last day and watered those tender new trees. Alas with all the botanical tidying there was no hammock swinging, no sitting in my oak leaved reading nook and no star gazing. One day!

Wonderfully there were little toes in the pool, an inflatable avocado, some luxuriating, and serious lengths done in the cool of the pool.

There were vintage linens to launder and dry in the sun, a chimney to chat about for the woodburning stove, and lovely food to eat both at home and away.

Liv’ and I ventured to Florence and we all loved the lake (Trasimeno) especially the bonfire set up for a wedding. There were delicious custard filled Aragosta’s (lobster claws) to eat, thank you Michele, and refreshing Aperol Spritz’s to drink at Bar Gallo in Panicale. There is the small matter now of working off all that delicious Vongole and Scampi Gnocchi eaten at da Massimo’s! Why is Umbrian food just SO delicious?!

It really is lovely to be back to the green of England in September, with fresh inspiration for new projects.

Have a great week Rocking Dog x

PS Happy 30th Birthday to our boy Alex’. Have a wonderful time celebrating in France. At least there is no embarrassing cake today Alex! In a year gone by (16 years ago) I was seriously inspired by a trip to Amsterdam, in particular a visit to De Taart Van M’n Tante (My Aunt’s Tart). Many of their cakes were bold and risque. What possessed me to think it was appropriate to send a boxed cake with Alex on a geography school trip which was topped by a rubber gimp doll?! Sorry Alex.

Apartment In The Sky,Rocking Dog

Apartment In The Sky

Tiny Toes,Rocking Dog

Tiny Toes

On Dry Land,Rocking Dog

On Dry Land

Vintage Laundry,Rocking Dog

Vintage Laundry

There Will Be Oil!,Rocking Dog

There Will Be Oil!

Chimney Chat,Rocking Dog

Chimney Chat

Down At The Lake,Rocking Dog

Down At The Lake

Cake Break,Rocking Dog

Cake Break

Planting For The Future,Rocking Dog

Planting For The Future

The Ripening Hambrook Harvest

From Little Acorns....,Rocking Dog

From Little Acorns….

I escaped the kitchen and ALL that china for a brief while yesterday. I was surely succumbing to cabin fever or should that be soapy sud kitchen fever! Real Live Rocking Dog provides the perfect excuse to drop the tea towel and  get out on the Frome Valley walkways which hug our fortunate doorstep.

How lovely to walk in sunshine and have blue fluffy cloud skies as a gorgeous last day in July canopy. Along the walk there were burgeoning and ripening crops of sloes, bullace, elderberries and blackberries. I spied a particularly luscious crop of blackberries over a pennant stone wall. Alas, they were unattainable with the river a watery barrier. A host of birds and other wildlife will have a veritable feast with no humans able to access and pick this precarious crop. Other bird food is ripening ready for the colder less plentiful days of late autumn and winter. Haws, rosehip and holly will serve them well.

Family folklore suggests that my fathers maternal family may have been Huguenots. Have you ever witnessed how  many French folk behave on a beach, they are not sunbathing, they are not swimming .. they are foraging! They have pails and spades, nets and lines and going in search of lunch or to find bait to catch lunch! Mussels, whelks, coastal plants, shrimp and crab are simply not safe. I see ripening elderberries and think of their addition in a summer pudding, an apple pie or crumble, ice cube or stew. Sloes and bullace again are destined in my mind to immersion in vodka or gin. I love to use the bloated alcohol soaked berries in rocky road and in ice creams, sorbets and warming winter stews. Just maybe, yes maybe I indeed do have French foraging blood flowing in my veins!

I love the way the Italians celebrate and give thanks to every crop they harvest and every animal they hunt. There are ancient walled hilltop towns close to where we live in Umbria which annually celebrate the bread, the oil, the wine, the saffron, the wild boar, the sweet chestnut, and so on! In the spring we were treated to the most wonderful feast at the little village hall in “our” village. The valley was vibrantly yellow with Mimosa trees and so this tree was celebrated along with World Women’s Day. The men (with undoubtedly some help of the female kind in the background!) of the village cooked for the women. We sat down to plates of crostini followed by two pasta courses (one with a pork ragu sauce and the other a tomato sauce). Lamb, steak and locally produced sausages cooked on a wood fired brazier together with a delicious dressed salad came next. Finally a specially baked mimosa coloured iced cake was proudly bought out and served with Grappa. Throughout the meal we had bottles of very quaffable locally produced red wine and then it was time to dance. Bad dancing translates and is understood in whatever language you speak! The Macarena danced for the final time it was time to wearily and bloatedly stumble home. Each woman was presented with a branch of Mimosa as she left together with hugs and hearty “buona notte’s”. It was such a lovely multi generational community event and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. We do not celebrate anything enough in this country and unfortunately unlike the Italians many British would not embrace a party encompassing all generations.

Back to walking along my favourite Hambrook walk (nicknamed “Mr Badger walk” because of an old sett along its route) the earth was littered with crops that hadn’t quite made it. Amongst the carpet of last years autumnal leaf fall there were conkers, beech masts and cobnuts lying like jewels. They had simply dropped before their time or had been slain by squirrels not willing to wait!

At the stile there was a solitary doe eyed cow with Bully the blooming big bull. I couldn’t help thinking “poor cow!” Perhaps she’ll have her very own harvest in the spring.

Very soon it was time to return to THAT china … but I felt so much better after a brief but wonderful nature filled sojourn.

 

Future Harvest,Rocking Dog

Future Harvest

Ditto!,Rocking Dog

Ditto!

Unattainable Harvest,Rocking Dog

Unattainable Harvest

Too Early....,Rocking Dog

Too Early….

...Too Late!,Rocking Dog

…Too Late!

One For The Pan,Rocking Dog

One For The Pan

Late Summer Harvest,Rocking Dog

Late Summer Harvest

Christmas Harvest,Rocking Dog

Christmas Harvest

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow,Rocking Dog

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow

My 400th Rocking Dog Post

Exquisite Setting,Rocking Dog

Exquisite Setting

Sorry that there is no Rocking Dog gingerbread house or cake with the number 400 on it. Life has been busy shopping and preparing for a lovely wedding at the end of the week. Rocking Dog is going to be pulling out all the stops! The atmospheric photo heading this post is taken in the garden where there’ll be a marquee, an undoubtedly very glamorous bride and groom and a melee of equally gorgeous guests. I am slightly worried that my own outfit is all together rather Handmaid’s Tale – I’m just needing the bonnet! The garden this morning was young, fresh, verdant and with the happy sound of little children enjoying the first day of the summer holidays, yay! The borders are looking wonderful with Bears Breeches, Agapanthus, Hosta’s and other botanical loveliness. The old warm brick walls which formerly would have had lean-to green housing for the growing of lemons, pineapples and other “showy” edibles now hosts wisteria with its scented mauve chandelier blooms. There really is nothing like an English garden and this one is truly, yes absolutely truly lovely.

It has taken Rocking Dog 7 months to leap from 350 to 400 posts. There have been times where writing has not come easily. In fact reading doesn’t always come very easily either. I am ashamed to say that in June I read my first book in two years and that felt quite an achievement. The brain is such a difficult organ to fathom.

Importantly, there has been a new grandchild this spring and in turn the nurturing of new parents. The name Biddy (as in old) is becoming a term of endearment I really love. I haven’t given up leopard print or silver wedge shoes and yes, I know I will love him unconditionally even when he’s a grunting spotty teenager!

The seven months have seen Christmas glitzily come and go, and in fact come back again! Indeed, we hosted “Christmas in February” at the kennel and raised £550 (plus GiftAid) for Young Carer’s. We can do “Christmas in a Box” for families in need Christmas 2017. Wee Tam’, Old gout ridden Toby and Mrs Mack (the present from Fleetwood) are busy conjuring up the theme for next years Burn’s Night…watch this space!

There has been lots of walking to be done with Real Live Rocking Dog with a myriad of wildlife- deer, kingfishers, weasels, buzzards, swallows and even a Russian Waxwing! The white rabbits still seem to be multiplying in the field and I never cease to think that it’s some weird scene from Teletubbies! Real Live Rocking Dog also got to walk in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany and finally Italy this Spring. Like us he likes the Umbrian way of life and he is particularly partial to the sausages stocked in the village shop!

Rocking Dog has continued to make food, sew, gallantly endeavoured to tackle two unruly gardens, volunteer, homemake, care for friends & family and always tried to be cheery (for a half empty glass gal’ I acknowledge I am).

Seven months in a nutshell! Somewhat alarmingly the next fifty posts should take me to Christmas 2017! There’ll have been Young Carer’s Christmas Boxes to pack, a charity pop up restaurant night under our belts, an olive harvest to bring in (fingers crossed), Real Live Rocking Dog having walked in the snow again and lots of happy times spent with friends and family.

Love to all those who follow my blog, I appreciate you hanging in there with me

Love Rocking Dog x

PS. Yes, another phenomenon of the 7 months is the Rocking Dog Creative Huddle. There is a Huddle this Wednesday (26th). Homemade cake (fingers crossed) creative stuff, friendly chat and you’d be very welcome 7-9pm. Donations into the teapot for Fine Cell Work inspiring and supporting prison inmates to sew and embroider.

Winter Walks,Rocking Dog

Winter Walks

Mrs Mac & Wee Tam,Rocking Dog

Mrs Mac & Wee Tam

Christmas In Feb',Rocking Dog

Christmas In Feb’

Marmalade Making,Rocking Dog

Marmalade Making

Cushion Making,Rocking Dog

Cushion Making

Creative Huddling,Rocking Dog

Creative Huddling

Field Full Of Flowers,Rocking Dog

Field Full Of Flowers

Chelsea Flowers,Rocking Dog

Chelsea Flowers

Quilted Flowers,Rocking Dog

Quilted Flowers

English Wedding,Rocking Dog

English Wedding

Spring In Umbria,Rocking Dog

Spring In Umbria

Swim In Umbria!,Rocking Dog

Swim In Umbria!

Glitter Shoed Gardening In Umbria

Hanging The Hammock,Rocking Dog

Hanging The Hammock

Good morning from Rocking Dog. I had good intentions of continuing to garden at 5.30 am on my return to the kennel, but alas….! To escape the piercing heat of the Umbrian sun I did indeed choose to garden as dawn arrived in the garden. I was awoken by my own dawn chorus of naughty chattering birds flitting busily on the ancient olive tree outside our bedroom window. I gardened in linen nightie and glittery sandals and as a result my legs are in a scratched and sorry state! The Italian version of Sticky Willy is coarse, barbed and unforgiving.

Umbria has had no rain for a few weeks now and the land is parched. It has been unusual to have such high temperatures so early in the summer season and there are real concerns for this years olive crop. The little olives have had no chance to develop before being hit by temperatures nearing 40 degrees. For those of us who pick olives as a pleasurable hobby a poor crop is sad but not an economic disaster. Meanwhile for those who depend on the crop for their livelihood a poor harvest is a severe body blow. Of course a poor crop trickles down to whole communities (pickers,olive oil pressing facilities, bottle & can suppliers,retailers etc…) Olive oil really is a way of life in Italy.

It is not only olives which have been affected, we witnessed vineyards blackened by fire and food crops struggling in the earth for moisture. A huge field of sunflowers have been planted over the garden fence and we hope that in a months time there will be a blaze of yellow on the horizon. Sunflowers are a rotational crop, so it may be a few years before the cheery yellow field reappears so close by.

Our grass resembles cattle driving prairie land. We hope rain will come soon. It was too hot to plant anything new, so leaf clearing and tidying was the order of the day. Planting will be done in October when we will assess what needs replacing after the sweltering summer.

We hung the hammock, added pretty lights and watered the thirsty geraniums. I found the most exquisite little nest on the path. It was truly an architectural masterpiece with grasses and soft pulpy seed heads. It was so soft, so delicate and tear jerkingly beautiful. I didn’t get to sit in my oak tree’d reading nook, nor use my telescope, the swinging chair remained un-sat in .. but getting close to unfamiliar plants was enjoyable.

And Suddenly it’s Evening by Salvatore Quasimodo

Everyone is alone on the heart of the earth
Pierced by a ray of sun:
and suddenly it’s evening.

It wasn’t all about work in the garden, we managed to fire up the ancient pizza oven after some remedial internal grouting. Of course the pool provided delicious respite from the unrelenting heat, and Michele’s provided the perfect escape for Prosecci and cake!

So, it’s back to verdant woodland management back at the kennel and I think wellies may be rather more sensible than glittery shoes!

Have a good week and at least the rain is on the way here.

Love Rocking Dog x

Watering The Geraniums,Rocking Dog

Watering The Geraniums

Garden Treasure,Rocking Dog

Garden Treasure

Unpromising Crop,Rocking Dog

Unpromising Crop

Lighting to Hang,Rocking Dog

Lighting to Hang

View To The Village,Rocking Dog

View To The Village

Early Morning Dip,Rocking Dog

Early Morning Dip

Escape For Cake,Rocking Dog

Escape For Cake

Fire Up The Oven,Rocking Dog

Fire Up The Oven

Back To Woodland Gardening,Rocking Dog

Back To Woodland Gardening

Gone For A Cooling Dip!

Cooling Pool,Rocking Dog

Cooling Pool

Signing off for a really wee while to go for a cooling dip. I will hopefully be signing back in soon with a batch of creative Rocking Dog bloggery!

Love Rocking Dog x

PS Next Rocking Dog creative huddle Weds 28th June. Please come for chat, cakery and makery!

Checking Our Olives,Rocking Dog

Checking Our Olives

Lunch Alfresco,Rocking Dog

Lunch Alfresco

Detour To The Shop,Rocking Dog

Detour To The Shop

Rocking Dog Antipasti,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Antipasti

Salami To Buy,Rocking Dog

Salami To Buy

Sunset,Rocking Dog

Sunset