Update and Comments: 20 March 2020

Confusion reigns

We all believe that we are invincible and that anything which is happening in another part of the world is not going to affect us in any way. How wrong can we be, as this Corona Virus (Covid-19) virus is proving to us all. The fact that we are able, through all the technological advances at our finger tips, to follow the lives of fellow humans all over the globe, can cause mass panic and fear amongst us and this is becoming more and more evident as the number of diagnosed cases increases.

Somehow, we have all been led to believe that the government and its policies will look after us when disaster strikes. We forget that every one of these so called “leaders” are just mere mortals like the rest of us. They have a tremendous task, when unforeseen events occur, to try to convince the population at large that they, the so-called people in charge, are aware of the problems and are in a position to offer solutions.  I suppose this is their way of attempting to prevent us all from going stark staring mad due to fear and panic. The trouble is that they are often spouting promises with little actual facts at their fingertips as to how to solve the problem at hand.

All one is hearing right now is how shelves in retail stores are stripped of items such as toilet rolls and hand sanitizer! For goodness sake, what happened to good old soap and water? It is a sad fact of life however that for many people in South Africa, as well as many other parts of the world, the availability of running water is a pipe dream (rather an unthinking pun, for which I sincerely apologise!) and those same people are not in a financial position to purchase expensive hand sanitizers. When you live in a crowded environment and have to queue up to use communal toilets, I hardly think you can afford to buy economy packs of 2 ply loo paper either. So, the more clued up you are about health and safety, sometimes the more idiotically you behave. One would have thought that, if you can afford to bulk buy in order to protect yourself, you would be in a reasonably good financial position which should surely be linked to a certain level of education and/or intelligence? Apparently not, if all the hooliganism surrounding the purchasing of toilet paper is to be taken seriously.

Whilst I may appear to be flippant about this pandemic, it is certainly not the case. One is constantly second guessing just how to carry on when making a living is all important. Being surrounded by others who are losing their jobs, having functions cancelled upon which their livelihood depends is very distressing, and it’s not easy to remain positive right now. We have abundant challenges world-wide every single day, even without the threat of coming down with the virus, but we just have to try to band together (from a distance, and after sanitizing our hands!) and offer emotional support if possible. Doesn’t the old adage say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger? Well, we can only hope that this proves to be the case right now.

As I am writing this, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and all is well in my little neck of the woods. The gate, which was hit by lightening a month ago has finally been repaired, my flat tyre on my indispensable little Hyundai i10 has been fixed, and I managed to get my doctor to issue a repeat of my prescription without having to spend time sitting in a waiting room which was jam packed with coughing and sick looking individuals.

So, all is well in this neck of the woods for the time being at least. Hope all who read this missive are taking the right precautions, and if you are quarantined, read all those books which you have been stockpiling for that elusive day when you have some time on your hands.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265

Temptation

As she walked into the living room, Jennifer saw that Stan had fallen asleep on the couch with the television still blaring out and was snoring gently. It amazed her that, in repose, he looked like such an amiable man, yet the truth was so often very different. Lately, he had become cranky and domineering and she sometimes wondered whether that blow to his head years ago had manifested itself into some sinister growth in his brain. Oh, well, the doctor didn’t seem to think so, and he was the so-called expert, wasn’t he? She had promised herself that if her husband died before she did, she would pay whatever it cost to have his brain autopsied, just to prove her theory.

They had met and married in their early twenties and had gone on to produce 2 daughters, both of whom had qualified as teachers and were now living in Australia. Neither of the girls seemed keen to find a partner and settle down, and were, by all accounts, having active social lives with lots of single friends. Good for them she thought, as she started to carry all the heavy shopping bags into the kitchen, feeling somewhat disgruntled at the way in which her life had turned out.

It was really strange that, looking back over the years, it should have been obvious that it was up to her to assert herself and not allow her husband to constantly dampen her spirits. When they were first married, they had had lots of fun, and were part of a group of friends who had all gone to school together. Perhaps that was the real problem – everyone had continued to live in the area in which they had grown up, and no-one had married anyone from another town, let alone another country! Most of the other couples had eventually moved away, and they had all lost touch with one another. Only Jenny and Stan still lived in the same village after all these years. Maybe that was the reason that their lives seemed to be so dull and mundane these days. Something needed to be done to bring back some excitement, if not for them both, then at least for Jenny.

09 - Illo - Man Slepp on Sofa

Stan carried on sleeping while she packed away all her purchases and then, arms folded, she stood looking at the open fridge and wondered what she should make for dinner tonight. She had always joked that if she ever came into a fortune, it would be takeaways, or eating out at local restaurants for the rest of her life. Cooking had become a real chore instead of a pleasure, and today was no exception. She had to admit though that her cooking was usually far tastier and more nutritious than the other options, and certainly much cheaper as well.

Maybe she would use the lamb that she had just bought and make a casserole. It was only just after midday, so there was plenty of time to braise the meat, prepare the vegetables and get the dish in the oven to cook slowly and then she would make that phone call that she had been putting off for days now.

She hadn’t told Stan that her friend, Margie, had recently had a financial windfall when an ex-lover, who never fulfilled his promise to divorce his wife and marry her, had died suddenly leaving her a substantial amount of conscience money. To help her get over her grief, Margie had decided that a shopping and sight- seeing trip to Thailand might just be what was needed. She didn’t want to go on her own and had immediately asked Jenny to go with her, all expenses paid.

Temptation 3 350x321

Luckily, Jennifer’s passport was valid, and she had managed to save quite a few pounds over the years by being very thrifty when it came to buying groceries. Fortunately, dear Stan didn’t have a clue when it came to the cost of food and household products, so squirrelling money away for a rainy day (that really was a thoughtless pun, considering the weather in England!) had been really easy. She had opened her own savings account years ago, and he knew nothing about it. While he was away on business, which still happened regularly, she was able to be really tight when it came to making meals for herself, and that way her private money stash was looking fairly healthy right now.

Stan’s contracting job was irregular and right now he was on a month’s break – hence the sleeping on the couch in the middle of the day. To be honest, he did seem to be getting tired of all the to-ing and fro-ing to Africa and the Far East which his engineering expertise necessitated, but the money he earned was not to be sneezed at. The trouble was that he was a bit tight fisted to say the least when it came to actually spending what he earned. Yes, they would have to start looking at the future and potential retirement one of these days, but life really was for the living, as she so often tried to tell him. Their retirement policies were going to ensure a comfortable old age by all accounts, but the thought of having him under her feet day in and day out, once he gave up work completely, was enough to give her a panic attack. The way she felt right now, she would either have to start taking happy pills like so many of her friends, or doing what their neighbours did on a regular basis, and smoke pot! It all boiled down to coping!

Anyway, that phone call had to be made. She dialled Margie’s number and her friend answered almost immediately. “HI Jenny, I was hoping that you would give me the go-ahead today, so that I can book our tickets”.

Making sure that the bedroom door was securely closed before she answered Margie, Jenny rather nervously replied, “You know what Margie, I am going to accept your very generous offer as long as you allow me to pay my way regarding our eating expenses once we arrive. I haven’t said anything to Stan, and I am planning on doing a Shirley Valentine on him, and just leaving him a note on the fridge. After all, he is home now for the next 3 weeks, and there is enough food in the house to keep him going quite comfortably. Other than that, he can always go to his club and get himself a good meal, plus meet up with a few of his old cronies for a beer or two. He’ll survive, and maybe he will start to miss me if I’m not here at his beck and call for a while. It’s only 10 days anyway, and it’s not costing him a penny, so he has no right to complain!”

“Aren’t you glad that the girls have left home, there are no animals to worry about anymore, and you can just get on that plane with me and relax for a while?” asked Margie.

Glancing at her somewhat dishevelled appearance in the dressing table mirror, Jenny replied, “I can hardly imagine the relief I am going to feel once that plane taxies down the runway and we leave this miserable, depressing U.K. weather behind for a while. Thank you so much for asking me to join you Margie -this is the gift of a lifetime”.

The next few days were a bit of a challenge, as getting clothes and cosmetics ready for the trip without making Stan suspicious, was no mean task. However, he did pop out every now and again, either to buy the local paper, or on one occasion to pick up some fish and chips for their dinner.  Jenny had become an expert at deviancy and these few precious private moments were put to good use, and she packed with a vengeance. Fortunately, Stan never ventured into either of the bedrooms which had been used by their daughters in the past, so Jenny was able to hide her suitcase under one of the beds without fear of his finding it. She felt just as Shirley Valentine must have done, planning a secret getaway!

Temptation 4 350x234

The day of the start of the trip finally arrived, and the plan was that she would ask Stan to go to his parent’s house with a lasagne that Jenny had made for them. He hadn’t seen them for several weeks and it was about time that he did his duty and took them a peace offering. As soon as his car had left the driveway, Jenny rang Margie to tell her that the coast was clear, and she was ready to be picked up. They would be in plenty of time to get to the airport to catch their plane and have a celebratory drink before embarking on their adventure.  Jenny quickly stuck the note she had prepared for her husband on to the front of the double door fridge and made sure that the highlighter she had used would catch his eye the moment he entered the kitchen. She had just told him that she was taking a break with a friend and that she would more than likely be back in England in about 10 days’ time. She told him to enjoy his time on his own, and to look after himself.

An hour or so later, Stan arrived home and went straight over to the fridge for a cold beer. He was rather taken aback to find that Jenny wasn’t at home and then to see a note addressed to him on the fridge door. As he read her note telling him that she had gone away with a friend for 10 days he suddenly felt a burst of energy and a feeling of optimism that he hadn’t felt in years. Contrary to what Jennifer had anticipated, Stan was a bit of a dark horse to say the least. He may have played the part of the loyal husband, but deep down he had not always been such a good boy!

After downing his beer, Stan dialled a number on his mobile phone – a number that he had always been tempted to use, but always chickened out when he remembered Jennifer and how devoted to him she had always appeared to be. How could he cheat on her after all these years, and what if he got found out!  It was just a few seconds before the call was answered by a rather husky voiced woman. When she heard who was on the other end of the line, she suddenly became rather hesitant. “Oh, hello Stan. Haven’t heard from you in years. The last time I saw you was at that company function, which must have been about 3 years ago? To what do I owe the honour of this call?”

“Well to be honest Kay, I wondered whether you would like to have dinner with me tomorrow evening? You see, Jennifer has gone away for 10 days with a friend of hers, and it would be really good to get together again with you over a meal and a good bottle of wine.” There was a moment’s hesitation before Kay replied, “You must have heard then that I am no longer with Steve. I came home unexpectedly one day and found him in bed with our next-door neighbour’s husband. Once I had got over the total devastation, the embarrassment in knowing that It had became common knowledge was worse than the shock.  After all, we must have been the subject of many jokes as we  seemed to be the epitome of the happy, successful couple until this happened. “After chatting for a few more minutes, Kay agreed to have dinner with Stan the following evening.

Temptation 5 350x231

Sitting opposite one another at a popular Indian restaurant in a neighbouring village, Stan couldn’t help noticing that the woman he had last seen a few years ago had totally lost her good looks. She had put on pounds around the face and midriff, and her hair was grey and badly styled. He felt really disappointed, and no longer worried about being seen out and about with a woman other than his wife. No-one in their right minds could get the wrong idea about them being together. It took a huge effort on his part to actually try to chat to Kay and make the evening at least tolerable. She appeared to be distracted most of the time and was constantly checking her mobile phone.  When the coffee arrived at the end of the meal, Stan suggested calling for a taxi for her instead of leaving her to make her way home on the train. He had driven to the restaurant in his own car, but suddenly the very idea of spending any more time with this boring woman was too much for him.  He just didn’t have the inclination to go out of his way to take her home.

When the taxi arrived and they had said their rather uncomfortable goodbyes, the only thing in Stan’s mind was a tremendous sense of relief that, despite the temptation to stray while Jennifer was out of town, all that he was guilty of was taking another woman out for a meal. He realised suddenly that he was lucky that the evening had turned out the way it had. Things might have been quite different if Kay had remained the funny, attractive and sexy woman whom he remembered from the past. As it was, he felt quite sick with remorse when he thought of his wife, and how he took her and all her good qualities for granted. This was a wake-up call, and he was determined to make up for all his selfishness when Jenny returned home. He just hoped and prayed that she wouldn’t succumb to her own form of temptation whilst she was abroad. After all as he now realised, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, and a faithful bird in the hand is usually worth two dubious ones to be found in the proverbial bush!

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.
– Mae West (American Actress)

Sending him on his way.

It was the second day on board the cruise ship and Andrea was feeling more relaxed than she had felt in years as she leaned against the railing of the ship’s deck, gazing out at the horizon.  The constant strain of juggling home and office as well as the stress of her recent break up with her long-time boyfriend had taken its toll. She had been suffering from insomnia for weeks and her boss had noticed that she was constantly tired and irritable and suggested that it was time for her to think about using up some of her accumulated leave. She had been so diligent regarding her deadlines at work that she had hardly ever bothered to take any leave. It was only over weekends or when there was a public holiday that she was away from the office.

So far the week long cruise was proving to be exactly what she needed. Her cabin had its own balcony and she loved watching the flying fish and the occasional school of dolphins cavorting in the waves – she could forget about work for the first time in years, and even the hurt caused by the recent break up was surprisingly not bothering her much. The food and entertainment on board was first class and although she wasn’t really interested in spending much time with the other passengers, the ones she met at mealtimes were pleasant enough and not wanting to intrude on her privacy. She tended to be reserved by nature and found it rather difficult to make new friends. The few good friends she had were people she trusted and had known for many years and, due to her busy work schedule, she saw less of them than she really should, but maybe things could change once she got back home.

On his way Dolphins 350x233

Out of the corner of her eye Andrea noticed a middle aged woman with short greying hair who seemed to be talking to herself whilst trying to remove the lid of a square wooden box. Curiosity got the better of the normally reticent Andrea, and she walked over to the woman and introduced herself and offered to help her open the box. “It’s really stiff and probably due to the length of time that it’s been in my cupboard at home. Oh, by the way, I’m Linda, and thank you – maybe you can get the lid off!” With that Andrea tried to twist off the lid, and finally was successful. What she saw made her recoil in shock – the box contained ashes!

“I can see you’re a bit taken aback, Andrea, but before I throw these into the sea, let me explain”, said Linda. “It has been months now since I fetched the box and a lot of planning has gone into my taking this trip in order to do what is necessary and to say my final goodbyes. So many memories and feelings have been plaguing me and it has been a very hard decision to spend my meagre savings on this cruise, but I think once I have done what has to be done, then I can get on with my life”.

“I imagine that it is going to be a very emotional goodbye for you, and I hope that I am not intruding at such a difficult time, Linda?!

“Oh no, not at all. In fact I am just so glad that you came over to talk to me as I feel the need to unburden myself before I send him on his final journey. The past 12 years have been a total nightmare living with this aggressive, badly behaved individual who ruled my life completely. Being a positive person by nature, I always believed that thing would get better, but they just did not. My friends stopped coming to visit as they never knew what kind of a mood he would be in and often left in a hurry when they heard his snarling voice. They just could not understand why I tolerated it and eventually lost patience with me.”

“It sounds as though you have really had a lot on your plate and it reminds me of the past few years of living with my ex-boyfriend who was also very controlling and often bad tempered. There must have been some good times though?

On his way 2 350x211“Very few, sad to say. In the beginning he was so very affectionate and people admired his good looks and I got the feeling that many of them actually envied me having found such a great companion at the stage of life where many of my friends were on their own and feeling rather neglected. The trouble was that I started to loathe him for cramping my style and being so very demanding. I often felt that I was being totally manipulated and that my time was no longer my own. He was very faddy when it came to his likes and dislikes regarding his meals and I spent hours trying to find things that he would enjoy. Sometimes he actually seemed to appreciate all my efforts but I usually felt frustrated by the fact that keeping him happy was using so much of my time and energy. My decision to let him into my life had not been made in a hurry, but I must admit that there were days of serious misgivings and regret although I really did try to give him lots of love and attention.”

“It sounds as though you probably made a big mistake right in the beginning, Linda? Was it his good looks that attracted you?”

“That and the fact that I believed that we would have lots of fun together, but he turned out to be very ill tempered most of the time. It must have been due to his upbringing and his parentage but these were factors which only became relevant as time went on. I must say that I was actually relieved that, as he got older, he did tend to mellow somewhat and he aged very rapidly over the past few years.”

“It would appear that you had rather a challenging time whilst he was alive. Perhaps one day you will find a companion with whom you really do have great times together. You just never know what lies ahead do you?”

“I won’t be in a hurry to look for a replacement after this experience and the worst thing, Andrea, is that I feel that he sometimes really spoilt 12 of the best years of my life and it sounds very cruel, but I am relieved to be saying a final goodbye to him today. The reason I decided on this cruise in order to scatter his ashes is that he loved the sea and although I really don’t like swimming in cold water, I was forced to go down to the beach with him several times a week so he could race through the waves like a maniac whilst I waited on the sand for him to exhaust himself. Despite his extremely difficult nature, I felt a certain amount of guilt regarding my frequent resentment towards him so this is mainly to appease that guilt.”  With that comment, Linda leaned slightly over the railing and threw the content of the box into the sea. The slight breeze caught them as they floated down and it seemed to take quite a while before they disappeared into the waves.On his way 1 350x233“ Goodbye Rover, and thanks for the memories!”

“Rover? Was that your husband’s name, Linda?”

Linda burst out laughing, “I have never been married, Andrea. Rover was a Rottweiler that I decided to adopt, against my better judgement, when a good friend of mine went to China to teach English and had no idea of what to do with Rover who was still a puppy back then. Big mistake, but that is history now and I feel very relieved and maybe my friends will start visiting me again once this cruise is over! No more bad tempered male interference to worry about. Now time for a nice glass of cold champers in honour of a strong willed companion. Want to join me Andrea?”Onhis way 3 350x350.jpg

 

The Great Escape

It was Henry’s first day on the job and he was already feeling somewhat doubtful about his future with this new company. He had been given a pretty hard time at the interview and some of the questions he had to answer had made him a bit uncomfortable. For example, “what was his attitude to females?” and “Did he believe in freedom of choice?” He had been a bus driver for years and had an impeccable record and many very positive letters of recommendation but never before had he been questioned about his feelings towards women! Oh, well, as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a holiday”, and he hadn’t had one of those in years!

His instruction for today was to pick up passengers at three designated points and to take them through to the airport. He had been told that these were desperate women who all had reasons to escape. It was this that was making Henry feel very uncomfortable indeed. Was he party to underhand goings on and was he likely to be cited as an accomplice? Oh, whatever, let’s just get the show on the road, so to speak, he thought and started up the bus’s powerful engine.

Print

 

At his first stop he found a motley group of women of various ages and cultural groups. None of them seemed to be particularly happy and most seemed to appear tired and irritable. Another thing that Henry noticed was the small amount of luggage each woman was carrying – nothing much larger than an average sized duffel bag as well as a smallish, over the shoulder handbag.  I suppose when one has become so desperate that the only way out is to pack up and run away from everything, that you take the absolute bare minimum of belongings with you, he mused. He wondered how much Mary, his wife of 25 years, would cram into a small bag if she decided to leave him in a hurry. Knowing her she would need a container to pack all the things she had collected over their years of marriage and which she seemed to value more than she valued him.

By the time the passengers at the second and third bus stops had been picked up and were settled in their seats, it was an hour’s drive to the airport. Some of the women shut their eyes and promptly fell asleep, others just gazed out of the window and made no effort to converse with their neighbours. It was a very small handful of the older women who seemed inclined to pass the occasional comment to their fellow passengers. It was the weirdest atmosphere that Henry had ever experienced, and it made him very nervous. A strange thing was that no-one was using a mobile phone or an i-pad. That was very odd indeed but maybe also to prevent them being traced? Obviously these women were leaving the country and heading for greener pastures, without their families and friends knowing anything at all about their plans. Should he head off to the nearest police station and hand them all over, or follow his instructions and take them, as directed, to the airport? He needed the pay, so he put his doubts aside and just carried on concentrating on his driving.

The Bus 3 350x233

It was with a sense of relief that Henry finally saw the signs in front of him directing him to the offloading section of the airport. It was then that one of the women stood up and, for the first time during the entire trip, addressed him.  “Excuse me, Sir, but you have to drop us off at the domestic departures, not the international”.  Oh, so they weren’t going to another country, just running away to another town or city. Might be even easier to get lost in some or other small village than being traced through Interpol!

As he stopped the bus and helped the women down the steps, he saw in front of him two people holding up a large placard which read “The Great Escape – a big welcome to all our ladies”. So this was an organized running away!  As the passengers dismounted, they all headed over to the people holding the board and once they were all ready, they walked in crocodile file into the departure hall. Only a few of them had even bothered to thank Henry for his services – ungrateful bunch, he muttered under his breath.

As he was climbing back into his vehicle he saw a piece of paper had fallen on the floor of the bus. He bent down and picked it up and started reading the information on it.

“Are you overworked and over stressed? Do your husband and your children take you for granted? Is your boss overly demanding? Do you feel that you need to run away? Well, call now as there is an escape route at an affordable price.  Join other women who feel just the way you do and have a weekend of total relaxation and pampering at The Great Escape hotel and Spa, overlooking the sea, and at affordable rates. From the moment you board the luxury bus en route to the airport, please ensure that your mobile phones have been switched off, and try to keep all conversations as limited as possible. This is to enable you to begin your weekend of rest and rejuvenation in the best possible way. We will give you time to recharge your batteries in order to face your day to day challenges. Hope to see you at our very next “women’s only” retreat. Regards, Management, The Great Escape.”

Henry felt a bit deflated after reading this. His life was so mundane that it was actually quite exhilarating to think that one may have been party to a bunch of dissatisfied women running away from their previous lives to find love and happiness, and possible wealth by starting over again! Now it was another day in the life of a bus driver – a first day, so maybe other days might bring a bit more excitement. You just never know what is lurking around the corner- even if you are a bus driver! Nothing wrong with hoping, anyway!

The Bus 4 550x550

 

 

 

Update and Comments: March 26 2019

Once again time is running away with me. Don’t they say that time flies when you are having fun?

I think it would be true to say that it actually seems to fly faster when you are working hard! Anyway, I just want to mention that I am constantly toying with ideas for my blog, which I hope will appeal to many of you. My latest contribution is a new category which I have called The Armchair Travelogue.

There are so many amazing places on this planet which one can visit, and for those of you who are considering a really different kind of holiday, the choices these days are innumerable. That being said, I would like to think that I might be able to tempt you to visit spots which you may never have considered. On the other hand, if for whatever reason you prefer to be an armchair traveller, then this is just as much for you. Only time (that controversial word yet again!) will tell whether or not this new category is interesting enough to tempt you to follow future posts in a similar vein. I really do hope so!

That is all for now and I think I will refrain from posting anything on 1 April as it might not be taken seriously!!

That’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265

The Armchair Travelogue

Interesting places to visit.

It is a fact that if one is able to travel to other countries outside one’s own, the experiences gained  and the memories made often shape one’s attitude to the world at large. Depending on where one lives permanently it may be a stone’s throw to visit neighbouring countries at a fairly reasonable cost.  For others it could be that travelling overseas is a once in a lifetime occurrence and much planning may be needed to get the most out of the trip.

My plan for this segment of the blog is to whet the appetite of those fortunate enough to plan their next holiday or sightseeing trip as well as to entertain those  who are too busy to travel or who through their circumstances are avid armchair travellers. I sincerely hope that over the next few months you will find something of interest in at least one or two of the articles I plan to post. It could even be that you are tempted  to visit some of the places which I will be writing about in the future.

Ivrea – Northern Italy

The industrial city of Ivrea, the headquarters of Olivetti, known world-wide for being innovators in the past of typewriters, and later computers, situated in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, was declared a world heritage site in 2018. This came about due to the successful and unique design  of the area in order to develop the testing ground for the headquarters of Olivetti (incorporating the factory as well as accommodation) by leading urban planners between the 1930’s and 1960’s,to create a modern version of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.

Having once been fortunate enough to have lived in Ivrea, for several months, I remember how I faced the prospect of the move with a great deal of trepidation. I had a two year old child, and had visions of doing the daily washing down at a local stream with a load of unsophisticated local women. Oh boy, how wrong can one be – thankfully! All the mod cons were available and the furnished apartment we rented had a washing machine!! The local people were anything but unsophisticated and my husband and I both had Italian lessons with a lady from whom we learnt not only to speak the language, but also to appreciate some of the culinary delights.

Such an absolute privilege, looking back, to have had the many experiences we had during our sojourn in Ivrea, and later in Milano. Our time in Ivrea actually coincided with the traditional Carnevale d’Ivrea and the battle of the oranges, which takes place annually shortly before Lent. The only year it was cancelled was in 1960 due to the death of Adriano Olivetti. Watching the following video confirms that many traditions have stood the test of time and will no doubt continue to do so.

Firstly, a short description of the town of Ivrea. Steeped in history, there are still cobbled streets in some areas which are juxtaposed with modern shops and restaurants – old and new side by side.  Situated at the edge of the Aosta valley, Ivrea has the Alps on one side which, during winter months, are capped with snow. Close to ski resorts such as the town of Cervinia, which is located at the foot of Mt. Cervino (known world-wide as the Matterhorn) and a relatively short train journey to the Swiss border, it makes good sense for tourists to take the time to discover this mediaeval treasure.

If one is able to visit Ivrea at the time of the annual Carnival then it really is an amazing experience to be part of the festivities of the Battle of the Oranges. Dating back to around 1808 this battle commemorates the time when in medieval times  Violetta, the miller’s daughter, refused to be bedded by the local Duke who took it upon himself to sleep with all newly married women. She actually cut off his head, and the oranges which are thrown in their thousands during the battle are meant to depict his severed head. The teams of revellers are all dressed in ancient costumes and the ones on the horse drawn carts wear helmets whilst those on foot do not have this protection.

As visitors to this spectacle you are advised to purchase and wear a red hat which resembles an elf’s hat, as this is meant to protect you from being bombarded by oranges. It doesn’t always work though, and I remember being able to choose to view some of the battles being fought behind a wire fence erected for the purpose and still having to duck regularly to avoid being hit by a citric missile! The thousands of oranges used during the festival turn the entire town centre into something resembling a gigantic juice extraction plant. One can hardly bear to think about the huge amount of cleaning up which has to be undertaken once the festivities come to an end.  I think the consumption of oranges probably declines dramatically for quite a while after the Carnivale!

The carnival is not just about the orange fight though as there are stalls selling amazing sweet and savoury treats along the banks of the local canal. More information is freely available on Google and well worth the read.  All in all several days of merriment for both young and old to enjoy, despite the chilly weather.

 

 

New Year 2019

Regardless of the country in which you live, if you are reading my blog right now you are possibly making plans to celebrate the end of 2018 and the start of a New Year, with all its promises.

We humans seem to have the knack of facing the New Year with optimism time and time again. It is this hope and positivity when thinking about the year ahead that keeps us going, despite any  hardships and sadness that we may have had to endure during the past year. It’s just as well that we are often able to start the New Year with enthusiasm and a certain amount of excitement at what the coming year will bring.

With the world having become so very much smaller due to technology, one is able to watch people in all different countries celebrating the arrival of the New Year. One can begin by watching magnificent firework displays in cities such as Sydney, Australia, or Auckland, New Zealand and then travelling to Africa and watching festivities taking place in Cape Town. Two hours later, the crowds around Trafalgar Square in London, despite the cold, are always up for a rip roaring New Year’s Eve party – even going so far as to jump into the freezing fountain (obviously alcohol fuelled!) Firework displays along the banks of the River Thames are also par for the course.

London Fireworks 525x 332 1262297704

Times Square in New York is among the last cities to celebrate the arrival of the New Year (obviously this depends on which continent one is living when making the comparisons) and the freezing cold weather seems to do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for being part of the activities. Similarities do seem to exist in Western societies when it comes to the New Year celebrations. Counting down the minutes to 12 midnight, letting off fireworks, kissing those nearby (!) and toasting one another with glasses of bubbly – all these are well known to many of us.

The singing of Auld Lang Syne (composed by Robert Burnes) is, for many traditionalists, an absolute necessity at the start of the New Year.  However, if one were to actually celebrate New Year in Scotland things could be quite different.  The Scots celebrate Hogmanay (as opposed to New Year) and for them the traditions include the “first foot”. This has to be a dark haired man bringing with him a piece of coal and other items such as some shortbread, and a “wee dram of Whisky” entering one’s home at the stroke of midnight, or just after, in order to ensure good health and prosperity for the coming year.

Many of us have good and maybe not so good memories of New Year’s Eve celebrations over the years. Waking up on 1 January can be a painful experience due to the night before. There are parties which may have been well worth the headaches of the morning after, while others are best forgotten. With drinking and driving laws in most countries these days, many choose to stay at home on 31 December and watch television, or have a special meal in an attempt to stay awake long enough to toast the arrival of the New Year with a glass of champagne.

Here’s hoping that 2019 worldwide is a less traumatic and troubled year than many of the more recent ones have proved to be. To anyone who is reading this, my wish is that you will have a wonderful start to the New Year.

New Year Cheer 300x300 236477596
CHEERS

Update and Comments: December 28, 2018

I cannot believe that it is over two weeks since my last update and comment! These public holidays which are accompanied by frenetic activities such as cooking, baking, wrapping gifts and spending time with family and friends tend to result in my getting all mixed up regarding the days of the week. Anyway, another Christmas Day has come and gone and a great time was had by all and now it’s time for a quick update!

As promised, I have inserted a photograph in the about page, and I have also created the contact page. Furthermore, the “Guest Contributor” section has been started with a hobbyist chef and his recipes. I am planning that, over the next few days, I will be starting to publish the first of several articles on local South African artists highlighting some of their work. This is all thanks to the kind co-operation of the Staedtler Company in South Africa and their extremely informative magazine, “MARS arts crafts and design”.  More information will be given to you under the umbrella of “Artists”. Suffice to say that I hope you will find this section of great interest.

Since having to say goodbye to our dear Rudie, I have been in touch with the well respected breeder from whom we purchased him almost 13 years ago, and it seems very likely that soon we will be welcoming a new German Shepherd pup into our home. I will be giving you more info (for those of you who, like myself, are dog lovers) regular updates on this development.

Meantime, as we all recover from an overload of food, alcohol (if one does imbibe), people and end of year stress, I will just say that I truly hope that we can share a lot of thoughts, ideas and useful information in 2019.

Once again, that’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265

Update and Comments: December 10, 2018

Being rather technically challenged where IT is concerned (another shortcoming along with astronomy – planets, stars, galaxies etc.,  which are still a total enigma to me), I have a “behind the scenes” assistant who is presently still familiarising himself with WordPress. Therefore, I must admit that the blog is still “under construction”! I hope you will bear with me on this one!

I have lots of plans for keeping my blog one which should be interesting and, hopefully, appealing to many people who have varied interests and opinions. To prevent you from only hearing my voice, there will be a section for “Guest Contributors” and this will give an insight into the lives and passions of a variety of people from totally different backgrounds. I am not going to say too much about this section right now but you won’t have to wait too long for the first contribution.

Taking selfies is not something which appeals to me and I have never really enjoyed being photographed. I will, however, be replacing my unusual “About” photo once I find one which is more the real me – one which highlights just how much my looks have changed!

I realise that initially my posts tended to be too long, and the objective criticism I received in this regard has resulted in my splitting them into portions which should prove to be more easily digested. I do not want you to feel that you have to wade through my writing to get to the point.

Oh, by the way, I will also have a contact page on my blog in the not too distant future.

Well, that’s all for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

Updates and Comments2 472x265