Sunday, 30 October 2016

Domenica Sintesi | Le colline sono vive con il suono di campanacci ...

Dear FOQ

{Berger & Wyse | via here}
Vaguely sincere apologies for a slightly prolonged absence. Things have been, well, not quite full-on but just ... intense. Like swimming through soup. But I'm back. Hi! *waves*

I don't know how you feel about this blog (and it's all about me so whether or not I should take straw polls on its outcome is fairly irrelevant) but I'm lacking the same drive I had about a year ago to keep it up. 

I'm sure it's just a blip, borne of having a very busy week that leaves me borderline comatose followed by a week during which I barely leave the house except to, y'know, go out and earn a living.

I suspect it's also a blip borne of Things Being Different Now. Folks' lives have changed exponentially in the last year, mine included, with new jobs, new life situations etc ... and the routine and dynamic of this blog has gone AWOL somewhere along the way. (As have, I'm sure, one or two readers so I apologise for that too.)

But I digress.

I shall keep blogging until such a time as it transpires I am my only reader. Because if I don't blog, I don't engage in any sort of writing as it stands these days (apart from some earnest book planning), and I really need to do something about that.


These past three weeks, I have mostly been ...


Books! All the books! Much books! Look upon the books wot I haz read and be wonder-filled. Or something:

{Aiding and Abetting | Muriel Spark}
{The Sea on Our Left* | Shally Hunt}

* This book is proof if ever I needed it, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling (pretentious, moi?) that 'He [or She] travels fastest who travels alone' ...

{The Age of Innocence | Edith Wharton}

{Me Before You** | Jojo Moyes}
** which I only read because I'd run out of holiday books at this point ... IKR?

But I secretly enjoyed it. And had a right old amount of Feelings towards the end.

Though having seen the trailer, I'm thinking, nah, I won't bother with the film if that hammy little girl is meant to be Lou.

Overact much?

Now reading:

{Mr Mac and Me | Esther Freud}


Well, bits of Green Wing:

{gifs via here}

(Oh, Mac. you charismatic ginger legend of fake-TV-medicine, you ...)

Tried watching another episode of The Book Group on Friday night.

Fell asleep.

Woke up properly ...

... at 11.45am.

This is by no means a reflection on The Book Group.

However, in the 'spirit' of Halloween (see what I did there?), I embarked on Part One of a potential three-part Fairuza-Balk-film trilogy, beginning with ...

Return to Oz

which, at 31 years old now (!!!!!) still manages to be pretty creepy, and has an excellent line in witty comebacks especially by Dorothy and Billina, the hen:

{Oh, snap!}
And the animatronics and special effects (except maybe green-screen) are pretty effective, even now. Especially Mombi and her many heads.

Although, one tiny criticism: nobody puts enough effort into chasing, in this film. They tend to stand, rooted, bellow "Dorothyyyyyyyy!" and let her get away. Up the conflict ante, puhlease!

And I shall neither confirm nor deny that the scene near the end when Dorothy is found by Toto and Uncle Henry, which used to reduce me to a blubbering mess age 8 ... reduced me to a blubbering mess. Age 38. (Although, to be fair ... hormones.)

I may or may not fit in time for The Worst Witch and The Craft but this film deserved a revisit.

Swinging, Sixties' Style

... at the long-awaited, oft-rued but never-regretted, 1960s Disco at the church hall.

The party was in honour of the church's 150th anniversary and was themed for 1966 (the year of the centenary). We brought in a DJ (two, actually: the excellent Andy and Hugh from Sound Division), everyone pitched in, and the night was, I do believe, a success. Testament – some marvellous if nebulous photographs for your pleasure!

Pre-party set-up shots ...

{Disk Jockeys, spinning the stacks of wax and I'll just shut up now}

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I had a crack-team of amazing people to whom to delegate all the intricacies, and the disco would not have been a success without: Julie, Ellen, Louise, Caryl, Miriam and Anne, not to mention David on the door. And everyone who came to support the event and tapped into their inner mods, rockers and hippies.

Sixties Shenans

{Louise and David, on point and very groovy} 

And the DJs were terrific (even with a few delicious segues into music from Later Decades which were just as well-received as the 1960s, in all honesty) it was almost impossible to leave the dance floor.

{Yes, that is our wonderful vicar. :) | Photo by Henry Lau}

{Photo by Henry Lau}

{Excellent Ellen | photo by Henry Lau}

{No, those were not my party foot and leg adornments.
These were the tired leg adornments.
| Photo by Ellen}

There were a few sore ... feet the next morning, let me tell you.

Massive thanks to Henry for this little video capturing the mood of the evening!


... to rather epic and wonderful northern Italy for an 'off-grid' week with Ma and Pa QB, me uncle Derek ... (and an extra guest).

Yes I sound like a pretentious city-type. Yes I'm owning that.

{The off-grid holiday-maker | Guardian 'Modern tribes'
by Catherine Bennett | Illustrated by Ben Lamb | featured here}

Yes I am just a little bit sorry that a couple of external texts snuck through the ether (with apologies to Martin and to Fiona!), thus reminding me that life On the Grid still existed in those six days of blissful silence, solitude, Barbera d'Asti, Barolo (which I totally did not knock over all over the dining table like some uncoordinated gin-soaked buffoon, ohhhhhh no) ... and Unexpected Triv Triumphs.

We stayed in (one of) uncle and aunt Derek and Ann's properties north of Turin, in a cottage wonderfully named 'Casa Due' (adjacent to La Casa, the other property!) on a remote mountain-side (hill-side? Mountain-side. I still vote mountain: it was tall and the road was winding. Long and winding road. Cue for a song?).

{La regione locale}

Aaaaand it was bliss.

I'd be there now, writing and reading in front of the open fire, if it weren't for that whole Real Life interference.


Buckle up, buttercups ... here be many, many photos. Molte, molte fotografie.

Day One
{...and Ratty makes four.}

{View from the casa rustica}

{Looking back from Casa Due ...}

{First night, first fire of many ...} 
{Can't take him anywhere.
And yet we do.}

Day Two

Rather glorious sunny morning spent picking grapes, pruning roses, raking, strimming, reading ... then heading out in the evening to a local pizzeria (because, when in Italy ...)

{Morning sun}
{Oh, the promise of vino ...}

{The Grapes of wRATh ...}

{Pa QB working on his Poldark swagger}

{View from the vines}
After lunch, Derek gave me a tour of the property (as a Casa Novice I had no idea exactly how much there was to the property: 'Magical Mystery Tour', I believe, is an appropriate expression at this point)!

{You rang ...?

{In the eaves of La Casa}

{... because who doesn't have a vintage Italian
motorbike in the cellar?}

{The mist rolling in over the mountains}
{At La Torbiera, Alice Superiore, for pizza!}

{My 'age-appropriate' dinner plate!}

Day Three

... on which we did the Fondo mountain walk (many, many photos ...), drank some excellent coffee in the cafe afterwards, then came back to ... read, outdoors in the sunshine, then enjoy delicious sausage stew, play Trivial Pursuit (I WON! I WON!) and drink an astronomical amount of wine. (Ratty was ratted.)

{Morning light ...}

{Fondo, deliciously traditional. Love the bridge.}

{Beginning the walk. Warning: there will be
many, many shots of mountains.}

{Found my future residence, y'all.}

{Wait for meeeee...}

{Nope, this is the future residence. #cabinporn}
{There's always one loser lagging behind.}

{Ma QB and her big brud}

{No, this is the future residence.}

{Mountain mule}

{Aslan in the rock face}

{ ... the hills fill my heeeeeart ...}
{Stunning, if mildly inaccurate, sundial}
And now, a word, if you'll permit me, about the cows.

It wasn't an uncommon occurrence on the hills to Stop for Cows Crossing the Road; but the most striking thing about this not-really-but-I'll-call-it-a-phenomena was the noise their bells made. You really could hear the bells right across the valleys, quiet as it usually was in the mountains.

I can't describe it so here's a very short video (or, moo-vie, if you will):

{A quick visit to the past ...}

{I see snowy caps!}

{Stunning fresco on the shrine at the top of the hill before our descent ...}

{Inside the shrine | (taken through the window!)}

{Looking back at the church and shrine itself}

{Glorious Roman bridge}

{The modern alternative}

{Back at the foot of  the mountains}

{Bell tower. It wasn't leaning. I was.}
{Pa QB, blessed from above ...} 
{Welcome to my happy place (one of them) ...}
{Refamiliarising ourselves with some essential Italian
phrases ... from the 1950s}
Day Four

We drove to Turin to spend the day with family friend Laura, her partner Davide, and her gorgeous baby daughter. I have no photos to share per se but I shall paint you a vivid picture of ... the comedy journey guided by sat nav (Sat Nav woman's Italian pronunciation of street names needs some honing); lunch of prosecco, homemade salami and ravioli with pesto, plus chestnut and pine nut cake for dessert ... much catching-up then a walk to a nearby playground to let Laura and Davide's little lad burn off some energy after a day at nursery.

Splendid day.

Day Five

... the mist, it did roll in, and there did stay. Apparently it was moderately warm outside but I can't testify, as I stayed indoors all day and indulged my introvert self with a few good books. Ratty also. (He was hungover. Again.)

In the evening, we regrouped and drove up the mountain to Casa Praudin for dinner.

And not just any dinner.





Food babies were popping out all over afterwards.

But very enjoyable it was.

The menu:

Round 1: Salami, cold meats, chestnuts (boiled, we think, in honey and possibly grappa [sweet Italian grape brandy-type beverage])
Round 2: Potatoes and curds
Round 3: Veggie moulds (like little mousses – delicious!) with cheese sauce
Round 4: Polenta (plain, and cheese) with beef and pork (we think!)
Round 5: Cheeses with honey (I abstained and had bread and honey instead!)
Round 6: The winner: Chocolate amaretto pudding with cake
Round 7: Coffee with grappa (the grappa was optional!)
{Jos, you would have loved this.}
{Fabulous little coffee pot!}
{Ooh! More coffee pots!}
{"What's Italian for 'more polenta, please'?"}
{When you Snapchat your father
and he turns into Jeremy Paxman ...}
Day Six

The plan had been to walk up the hill to visit the statue of the Virgin Mary, but mist and rain prevailed so instead we took a short drive to nearby village Vico for a short amble. In spite of the drizzle, Ma, Pa and Uncle patiently indulged my need to photograph All the Things. Ooh I do like a fresco, me.

{Mist and rain, prevailing}

{The lane by La Casa ... all autumnal}
{In Vico, the Piazza Garibaldi}

{More autumnal-ness}

{Wonderful window display}

{Vico is full of little slipways and archways. With the odd
miniature footbridge for good measure.}

{Damp rellies}

{The church in Vico}

{Beautiful ceiling fresco in the foyer}

We had another lazy afternoon (well, Ma and I got to chillax; the men did manly things like raking, strimming, hunting bear, that sort of thing). Ma and I played another round of our eternal game of UNO (what's the overall score now?); then Ratty and I read and dozed by the fire in the parentals' room. Oh, woodsmoke. Why must you be so alluring?

{Ratty, rocking the scarf that Ma QB very kindly knitted for him}

{Stuffed rats roasting by an open fire ...}

{Game ON}
After dinner in the evening (and after I'd just about recovered my dignity after That Moment When I Knocked Over the Barolo), the adults among us (so, definitely not me) began roasting a selection of chestnuts found both on the property and, er, also in the wondrous Bennet supermarket. 

{Sociable lot}

The scavenged nuts, we believe, won out on taste and quality.
Day Six

So there we were, quietly eating our last breakfast in La Casa, and what should Pa QB hear but a low, distant humming.

"It's the fridge!" we insisted.
It wasn't the fridge.

It were the cows. With bells. Enormous bells. (Video courtesy of Pa QB.)

That's no heifer on the hill in purple top and leggings.

That's me.


After breakfast we drove to the start of a short walk up a very challenging side o' the mountain to visit the Virgin statue we'd missed out on the day before. 

It was worth it for the views.

{I Spy La Casa}

On the way back down, however, we were stymied ...

Nothing says 'reproach' like the look on a cow's face when you're in the way. And when you're on wheels and they've been walking for hours.

Back at La Casa we had time to finish packing, before we left for the airport, via L'Mulin for a delicious lunch of fish with mash (me) and escalopes (everyone else) followed by a very rich and nutty chocolate cake and proper Italian coffee to see us right for the journey onwards.

We did, incidentally, manage to catch up with the same herd of cows seen in the video above, as we drove back to Turin. Honestly. They could take me in a 100k challenge, no problem.

'Twas a truly splendid and deliciously relaxing few days; grazie mille to Uncle Derek, Ma, and Pa QB.

Recent-ish Pinterest Pins

One verbal | One visual

Recent-ish Web Finds

  • Pentatonix sing 'Hallelujah' and it's stunning, as usual | on YouTube | Thanks to Matt for sharing!
  • Southern Fail gets the Downfall meme treatment ... and it's superb.  | on YouTube | by Vince Tang, courtesy of the Association of British Commuters
  • Gaga, ooh la la! Lady Gaga joins James Corden for Carpool Karaoke and ... oh, would you shut up, Corden? Gaga is singing and she is fabulous. | on YouTube | (I will even forgive her 'You and me could have'... 'You and I', Gaga. It's 'YOU AND I'.)

And finally, this week's ever so weird earworm is ...
  • The Banana Dance (aka the Guacamole Song) by 'Dr Jean'. Is she a doctor the way Gillian McKeith is, I wonder ... ? | Thanks (I think?!) to Megan for this ... forever lodged in my brain!

Ciao, bellas. Bellos. Bellinis. W'evs

qb xx

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