Archive for March, 2012

Bluebell

March 28, 2012
bluebell

bluebell

In Japan, spring is heralded by the cherry blossom trees coming into flower.

In England, it is the bluebell that heralds the arrival of spring.

Although found across northern Europe, it is in England that bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) comes into its own.

Ancient woodlands, with trees of oak, hazel and ash, once coppiced, though now mostly neglected, in the spring are a carpet of blue.

Bluebells are the second wave of woodland flowers. The first wave are much closer to the ground.

The trees then come into leaf, shading out the ground.

Nothing of interest will now be found in the woods, apart from butterflies flitting around sunny glades and woodland rides, until the autumn, when the woodland fungi can be found.

Last week, bluebells were just starting to come into flower in my garden.

Spring Solstice 2012

April, I will expect the woodland area of my garden to be carpeted with bluebells.

Bluebells are usually blue, but occasionally they are white and purple.

Twenty Thousand Miles

March 28, 2012
Twenty Thousand Miles by Levi Weaver

Twenty Thousand Miles by Levi Weaver

Twenty Thousand Miles by Levi Weaver. Recorded live on an East Coast tour.

Our last day together in Bassano del Grappa

March 27, 2012
Mio about to set off for Bassano del Grappa

Mio about to set off for Bassano del Grappa

my wonderful travelling companions setting off for our last day in Bassano del Grappa

my wonderful travelling companions setting off for our last day in Bassano del Grappa

It was our last day together in Bassano del Grappa. The next day it was Venice.

It was the morning after the party the night before. We got back at 3-30am in the early hours of the morning from Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day party. I awoke not long after 6am. I felt dreadful, my head would not stop throbbing, but somehow I dragged myself down to breakfast, not that I felt like eating anything.

My Japanese friends had not yet made it to breakfast. My Russian friend Dasha had made breakfast. She had got in at 3am, and asked what time did we get in.

No sign of my Japanese friends so I went for a walk to Villa Bianchi (arch A Palladio), a 16th century Italian villa.

On my return, Dasha was packed and ready to leave. We said our farewells.

Ken and Yumi had made it to breakfast, but as yet, no sign of Mio.

Ken and I walked to a nearby bank. No luck changing Yen. They suggested we try banks in Bassano del Grappa.

On our return we chatted to a film maker who was preparing to leave. Yumi made her an origami figure of a crane.

Mio was now up. As Ken and Yumi did not wish to go out until later, I suggested to Mio we walk to the nearby church, it was too lovely a day to waste.

Mio agreed. We walked to the church, then up a mountain. It could not have been a more enjoyable walk, very peaceful and quiet, the only sound that of birds singing and the rustle of lizards in the leaves as they scurried away on our approach. And I could not have wished for a lovelier walking companion.

A walk to a church then up a mountain

On our return we found Yumi and Ken were now ready, so we set off for Bassano del Grappa.

I found a stick, which I gave to Ken. He found it an ideal walking stick.

A man who had spoken to us the previous day stopped and chatted. He told us three types of grapes were grown in the vineyards, Merlot, Pinot and a variety I did not know, and that there was a winery in the villa, the wine exported all over the world. He suggested we take a look, though he did not know if there would be anyone there to talk to us.

We retraced our steps and walked into what I thought of as the farmyard. We found cases of wine ready for shipping, vats in which we assumed the grapes were fermented, large barrels for storage, but no one about.

We then carried on our way. We could not have hoped or wished for a better day.

It could not have been a nicer or more pleasant day for our last day in Bassano del Grappa. We set off in good spirits.

Our day in Bassano del Grapp was though a somewhat wasted day.

It took most of the afternoon to find a bank that would change money, or at least that would change Yen.

We then decided to eat a pizza. Could we found a pizza place? Sadly not. We did not find a pizza place until around 7pm.

By now I was cold, not feeling very well and probably very bad company.

We ordered a taxi. Mio tried to keep me warm.

We ate that evening at Ristorante Alla Corte. I did not enjoy my meal. I was tired, not feeling well, and feeling miserable as the next day we would go our separate ways. I ate a little, then gave what was left to Mio

We had a bottle of champagne from the night before. I was for drinking it late night, relaxing after packing was done, but everyone was tired and wished for an early night, so we had it with our dinner.

Packing, bed, then train to Venice the following day.

No 1 Top Story in The Waverley Daily (Wednesday 28 March 2012).

A walk to a church then up a mountain

March 27, 2012
nearby church from Hotel Alla Corte - Bassano del Grappa

nearby church from Hotel Alla Corte - Bassano del Grappa

It was the morning after the party the night before.

We got in at 3-30am in the early hours of the morning from Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day party. I awoke not long after 6am.

I somehow dragged myself down to breakfast. I felt dreadful, my head would not stop throbbing. I felt sick.

My friend Russian friend Dasha was down to breakfast, but no sign of my Japanese friends. Dasha asked when did I get in? She got in at 3am.

As there was no sign of my Japanese friends, I took myself for a walk to Villa Bianchi (arch A Palladio), a 16th century Italian villa.

On getting back, Dasha and family were preparing to leave. We had a chat, and said our farewells.

I found Ken and Yumi finishing breakfast. No sign yet of Mio.

We had a chat with a film maker, Yumi made her an origami figure of a crane. Ken and I went down the road in search of a bank. No, they could not change Yen, suggested we try banks in Bassano del Grappa.

On our return we found Mio had emerged. As Ken and Yumi did not wish to go out for at least an hour and as it was too nice a day to waste, I suggested to Mio we went off for a walk to the nearby church that we could see on a hillside. The church we could see from our hotel.

As we set off, I suggested we could maybe then go for a walk along the river, but realistically we did not have the time and I was not sure how long it would take. I had walked along the river on my first day, and that had been a three hour walk.

We find our way to the church. We walked all round, tried every door, but sadly all were locked. We were unable to gain access to the church.

Outside the church a wooden cross with a hen atop. Not something I had ever seen before. The church also had painted on its wall a sun, a pre-Christian symbol.

Let’s carry on up, I suggested, see how far we can get.

Mio agreed, and after a short rest, off we trekked.

It was a wonderful walk. Sunny, very hot. very peaceful and quiet. The only sound was the birds singing and rustling in the leaves as lizards scrambled away on hearing our approach. Occasionally we caught sight of the lizards as they scurried away.

We were greeted by dogs protecting their property. Whether friendly or not we did not get to find out as luckily we were always separated by a wall or a fence. We greeted them and carried on upwards.

As we climbed, a panoramic view unfolded below. Views of the mountains, views of the flat plain that extended all the way to Venice. Far below we could see in the near distance the Italian villa opposite our hotel.

To the side of us lovely grass slopes, wooded banks.

In the woods we found a lovely blue flower. I knew what it was but could not recall its name. It also grows in the woodland area of my garden and I found it in flower a few days later on my return.

We found four, maybe five, species of butterfly flitting around. Mostly small, including a white one with orange tips to its wings. I caught a glimpse, but that is all it was, of a much larger butterfly, maybe twice the size.

The road turned into a stony track and eventually petered out, the way forward blocked by a gate.

It was time to turn around and set off back down as Yumi and Ken would be waiting for us.

On our way down, it struck me how like an Alpine church was our little church. I do not even know its name.

We found Yumi and Ken waiting for us. We set off for Bassano del Grappa, along a little road, past the 16th Century Italian villa and then to walk along the river.

As we passed the villa, a man we had spoken to a previous day, stopped and chatted to us. He told us that the villa had an associated winery. That in the vineyards they grew three varieties of grapes, Merlot, Pinot and a third variety we had not heard of. He said the wine was exported all over the world. He said we coud go take a look but did not know if anyone was there.

We retraced our steps and looked in what I thought of as the farmyard. We found packed cases of wine, what we assumed were vats for fermenting the wine, barrels for storing the wine, but no one was around to talk to or sell us any wine.

We then continued our walk into Bassano del Grappa. I picked up a stick, which Ken found ideal for walking with. It was a lovely sunny day for our last day in Bassano del Grappa. And I was slowly slowly recovering.

It could not have been a nicer or more pleasant day for our last day in Bassano del Grappa. We set off in good spirits.

Flowers: There are 1200, maybe 1600, flowering plants in northern Europe. I used to know them all, be able to identify them all, even though it may have meant spending half a day sat by a plant trying to identify it. Mushrooms and fungi and grasses too. Now the best I can do is see a plant, know I know what it is, but be unable to give it a name.

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is a white spring woodland flower. Blue anemone (Anemone apennina) is a close relative, looks the same but with blue-purple flowers, not white.

The strength of mountains and the wisdom of water

March 27, 2012
Ponte Vecchio - Bassano del Grappa

Ponte Vecchio - Bassano del Grappa

Lord, bless our week. May we have the strength of the mountain and the wisdom of the water.

— Paulo Coelho

We do not receive wisdom, we discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us.

— Marcel Proust

Orações a São José – St Joseph’s prayers

March 26, 2012
St Joseph prayers - Jane Stewart

St Joseph prayers - Jane Stewart

There cannot be many parties that start with prayers. There cannot be many parties that start with prayers in Portuguese, then in many, many languages.

Exactly one week ago today it was St Joseph’s Day. I was at a party in a Venetian medieval castle, guest of Paulo Coelho.

It was exactly one year, one week, one day to the devastating tsunami that hit Japan.

Very moving prayer from Yumi. She was in tears. I was holding hands with Mio. Mio was in tears. I was in tears.

Even now, watching one week later, I am in tears.

Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day Party at Castello Superiore di Marostica

A gift from Japan

March 26, 2012
a gift from Japan

a gift from Japan

I met my Japanese friends Yumi and Ken Crane in Bassano del Grappa, and they brought along the lovely Mio, who was a gift in herself, as such a delight was her company.

They had brought me a gift. What it was I did not know as I immediately took it up to my room to bring down Paulo Coelho books I had with me, which they were interested in seeing, especially Mio.

And there it sat on my bedside table, until a few days later when I was packing to leave. Not realising what it was, I almost threw it away. I then did realise, and packed it away in my suitcase.

There it lay, forgotten, until yesterday.

I dug it out and found a lovely bookmark. Hand painted and I think made of bamboo.

Thank you very much my Japanese friends for such a lovely gift from your country.

Ten Thousand Leaves

March 26, 2012
Ten Thousand Leaves - Jake Schepps

Ten Thousand Leaves - Jake Schepps

The first track Todo Buenos Aires is a brilliant improvisation on a theme of Astor Piazzolla.

The third track the beautiful, haunting Origami.

Bookshops in Bassano del Grappa

March 26, 2012
Wonderful display of Paulo Coelho books in window of Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Wonderful display of Paulo Coelho books in window of Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Mio browsing her favourite writer Paulo Coelho in Vicola Gamba

Mio browsing her favourite writer Paulo Coelho in Vicola Gamba

Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Libreria Palazzo Roberti

Incontrarsi, sfogliare, leggere, un piacere da riscoprire nella Libreria Palazzo Roberti.

Un ambiente accogliente, con sale di lettura, terraazza e giardino.

There are four independent bookshops in Bassano del Grappa (maybe more).

One along a narrow lane between the old wooden bridge and the river.

One next to the bridge.

One straight up from the bridge, about half way up on the left.

One up through the two squares, then carry on up through the street that leads out, about halfway up on the right.

The one in the narrow lane appears to specialise in art and philosophy. No books by Paulo Coelho.

The one by the bridge has a stunning view of the old wooden bridge out the rear window. By the window a good selection of books by Paulo Coelho.

Vicola Gamba is a lovely little coffee shop cum bookshop half way up the narrow street leading from the bridge. Wide selections of teas and fresh-crushed fruit juice. By a table at the rear a good selection of books by Paulo Coelho. The sign on the wall, a steaming tea cup on a pile of books.

Libreria Palazzo Roberti is a bookshop in a former palace where Napoleon once spent the night. It is a family owned and run business and what immediately strikes one as one wanders around is their love of books. Wonderful enticing book displays.

Libreria Palazzo Roberti puts bookshops to shame in England. Not that there are many left as between them the publishing industry and Waterstone’s seem determined to kill off the book trade. In the last few years we have lost a quarter of our independent bookshops.

A quarter of independent bookshops lost in last five years
What’s gone wrong with our bookshops?

In England one would not find a bookshop like either Libreria Palazzo Roberti or Vicola Gamba. For a town the size of Bassano del Grappa one would be lucky to find one bookshop, let alone four happily coexisting.

The reason for this lack of bookshops is that books have been turned into a commodity. A fast buck, the latest blockbuster best-seller. Books are heavily discounted to Waterstone’s but not to independent booksellers, thus not a level playing field and they are being driven out of business by blatant unfair competition.

I had a very interesting conversation with a helpful and charming lady in Libreria Palazzo Roberti. I mentioned to her that Paulo Coelho was in Bassano del Grappa and suggested they marked the occasion with a window display of his books. When I next passed by, they had a wonderful window display of Paulo Coelho books.

Waterstone’s, by contrast, has corporate determined and controlled book displays. Very depressing to visit.

Aleph by Paulo Coelho is now out in paperback in England. Waterstone’s do not have Aleph on display, either in-store or in the window. Nor did Waterstone’s have Aleph on display when it was published in hard back, September last year.

Paulo Coelho in Waterstone’s and the author the publisher forgot

The handrails on the stairs in Libreria Palazzo Roberti are attached to the walls by snakes. The top floor is a salon used for music recitals. Out the back a lovely little garden. The front of the building is impressive too.

At the weekend there was a trio playing from across the bookshop: acoustic guitar, double bass and violin.

No 1 Top Story in The Waverley Daily (Monday 26 March 2012).

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

March 25, 2012

No regrets, a song Edith Piaf made her own.

When Edif Piaf sings No regrets it is as though she is tearing her soul from her body.

Written in 1960 by Charles Dumont, in a fit of despair, he gave the music to lyricist Michel Vaucaire, but was surprised by the words he wrote. Dumont thought the song should be about war or revolution. Vaucaire explained he wanted to give the song to Edith Piaf. She was living in Paris at the time, having recently finished her ‘suicide tour’ during which she had collapsed. At that time, Piaf didn’t think much of Charles Dumont and tried to cancel their appointment. But on hearing the song, Piaf told Dumont that with this song, she would sing again.

No! Absolutely nothing…
No! I regret nothing
Neither the good that I’ve done nor the bad
All this is much the same to me!
No! Absolutely nothing…
No! I regret nothing…
It is paid, swept away, forgotten
I don’t care about the past!

With my souvenirs
I lit a fire
My sorrows, my pleasures
I need them no more!

Swept away the love affairs
With their tremors
Swept away forever
I leave with nothing …

No! Absolutely nothing…
No! I regret nothing
Neither the good that I’ve done nor the bad
All this is much the same to me!

No! Absolutely nothing…
No! I regret nothing…
Because my life, because my joys
Today that begins with you!

I turned on the radio this Sunday lunchtime and caught a programme, Soul Music, on how No regrets came to be composed, how it defined Edif Piaf. The programme even included the composer playing on the piano at which it was composed.

I was surprised to learn No regrets was composed in 1960 as it has the feel of the 1930s.