Thursday, April 23, 2009

Simple Pleasures

1) The smell of ground coffee wafting out of a newly opened vacuum pack.

2) The sunlight shining diagonally through dewdrops on an immaculate lawn, making them sparkle.

3) A territorial male blackbird singing his heart out.

4) A square of chocolate melting slowly on the tongue.

5) Crisp clean sheets, line-dried in the spring breeze.

Simple pleasures that require little or no outlay and will be enjoyed into old age.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Venice in April

Our trip to Venice was even better than I expected: the weather forecast had changed from dubious to merely tolerable in the week before our departure, therefore the brilliant blue skies and 22 degree temperature that greeted us as we made our way from the airport to the waterbus terminal were a real bonus. Venice should only be approached from the sea, as befits its status an ancient maritime power. Sweeping around the lagoon before docking just in front of the piazzetta adjacent the Doge's Palace added to our mounting excitement. The hotel, secreted only a few hundred yards away from the bustle of San Marco, was as good as its internet promises, the room large and immaculately clean, with a view of San Giorgio Maggiore if we craned far enough out of our window. Determined to extract every last minute from the holiday we set off almost immediately to explore.

What a lovely city! By turns mesmerically busy and tranquilly quiet, magnificent and imposing or intimate and cosy. I had planned a couple of itineraries, but the joy of unhurried exploring on foot soon took over. We were constantly grateful that we'd invested in a good detailed map - it would have been difficult if not impossible without it to keep track of the winding calles, campielli and bridges. As in Rome, we chanced on the best discoveries, quiet neighbourhoods with sleepy ancient churches and inexpensive osterie and bacari.

Of course we did the obvious tourist things as well: San Marco in all its Byzantine splendour, the bustling Rialto and its early morning markets, climbing the campanile of San Giorgio for the stunning panoramas. But one of the most enjoyable things was just sitting back on the vaporetti and slowly meandering around the canals, zigzagging from stop to stop, hopping on and off by both day and by night.

The food was excellent, and although our budget did not stretch to too many local specialities, we managed to try a few including bigoli con salsa, osso buco and fegato alla veneziana with polenta, accompanied by vegetables that we fondly imagined had come from the erberia that morning.

Our time there was just too short and there's lots that we didn't manage to fit in - but at least we have an excuse for another visit.....!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Easter Garden

Just to clarify a bit about the Easter Garden mentioned in yesterday's blog-post.

I seem to remember that such representations used to be called 'calvaries' although I can find no mention of that. Ours is basically just a terracotta plate - the sort you can buy in garden centres - with half a broken flowerpot affixed to it, which represents the tomb. Then it's covered in earth and a layer of moss. On Good Friday morning, three small wooden crosses (ours were originally made from lolly sticks) are stuck into the mossy mound and a small crown of thorns is hung over the central cross. In the evening, we place a stone across the entrance to the tomb. The tomb remains 'sealed' until very early on Easter Sunday, when I run downstairs and roll away the stone and replace the crown of thorns with white ribbons representing the burial cloths. If possible, I like to strew the moss with tiny blossoms and flowers. When the children were small they were intrigued to find the transformation that had taken place overnight. It didn't take too long before they realised - to their huge delight - that this annual event was regularly followed by an Easter egg hunt, which no doubt rated more highly in terms of excitement!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Despite my best efforts, I feel asleep very rapidly last night and this morning failed to wake up before day had well and truly dawned. Ah well!
Having visited the Aged Ones this morning and made a brief foray into town to exchange a faulty DVD, I spent a happy few hours making my usual 'Easter Garden'. I have long since stopped kidding myself that the children are even remotely interested in this, although they may be persuaded to grudgingly hang the miniature wooden eggs on the 'Easter Tree'. I am doing this by myself, for myself. I hope that, if nothing else, they may remember in the future 'what Mum used to do at Easter'.
This picture is one I made earlier - last year to be precise!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Best-Laid Plans.....

Hey ho! School hols again!
In an attempt to offset the usual miserable decline in work output that generally happens during these times, I had decided to wake up at the crack of dawn to read a chapter on Douglas Moo's excellently detailed commentary on Paul's letter to the Romans and make some notes. My long-suffering husband is quite used to my bedside light going on at bizarre times and appears to be able to sleep on until his alarm goes off. Snuggling down last night, I decided to get a least an hour of 'work' in before the household awoke. Alas for the best-laid plans! When I did finally surface, there was already a cup of tea waiting for me and the dog was whining to be let out. Husband went downstairs and busied himself with getting ready for work, and I sat up and started reading, cursing my laziness. I'm tackling a particularly tricky part of the epistle at the moment, dealing with sin, death and the law. Every commentator and interpreter has his subtly different six penn'orth and the footnotes take up more of the page than Moo's text, so it is fiendishly difficult to keep a hold on the thread of the argument. Ideally, one needs a straight couple of hours to get into the swing of it before it starts to cohere, and today it just wasn't going to happen.

I impressed on the children last night that, with no school, they could have a bit of a lie-in - but it wasn't long before I was joined by the bright-eyed boy wondering what I had lined up for the day. Groaning inwardly, I put down my book and gave him a cuddle. We'd walked the dog and were entertaining daughter no.2 and the new baby before daughter no.3 flumped wearily downstairs and started painting her nails black. I suppose I could be doing some work now, but I'm a bit distracted and just not in the mood. The evening is also out of the question: if I try to tackle anything serious after the children go to bed, I just forget it immediately or fall asleep book in hand. My bedtime reading consists of inane mush at the moment. I shall try again tomorrow. Honest, I will!