Sundays To Clear Out the Rust of the Week

How is this Sunday going for you? I have been smelling the pages of old books that I laid my hands on for the smashing overall amount of 2 quid yesterday at a second-hand bookshop in Ludlow, and, inhaling a box of cookies I had stashed away and suddenly found on Friday evening in a dark corner of the pantry. Hidden treasures are not to be scorned, especially the buttery kinds, no?

Below is a shot of two pages from an autobiography by Nicolas Bentley, a 20th century British author and illustrator. It is an unusual autobiography. You do not come across those very often. Bentley said with a self-deprecating tinge: “..as I have very little imagination, not being a fisherman, and practically no memory, I realised that my autobiography, if it was to be written at all, must be written while my eyes though no longer innocent saucers were yet undimmed by the rheum of antiquity”. I was even more kicked to realised that he was the illustrator for a book – How to be an Alien (1946) by George Mikes – I have stacked into the library room of my childhood home in Calcutta. Travel – it makes you meet your childhood at unexpected places, or maybe I should have expected it because Mikes was writing a book on classic British humour (an instance of which is a chapter on sex that goes thus: ‘Continental people have sex lives: the English have hot water bottles’).

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Nicolas Bentley’s The Time of My Life
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Little rounds of heaven. You cannot stick to one.

Lastly, because I have been routing through my box of postcards every weekend, here are some tidbits for you.

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Theatre Poster from Hamburg 1883. Bought in Theater Figuren Museum in Lubeck, Germany.
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Theatre poster from  1910-11 representing the Schichtl family’s style of marionette theatre. The family’s work dates back to the 17th century. The Schichtls and their travelling cabaret & puppet theatre visited Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony and Thuringia.
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Sita, consort of Rama in Hindu mythology, reflected in an ancient form of storytelling-shadow puppetry.
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Notre Dame de Paris
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Place Blanche et Moulin Rouge
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Eighteenth century Parisian lady kitted out in a Circassian dress fashioned out of Italian taffeta gauze.
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Dinner menu from 1751 at the Chateau de Choisy in Val-de-marne in the Ile-de-France region. It belonged to Louis XV after he bought it in 1739. 
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An old poster of Lago di Como, Italy. 

 

Blue Sky Tag II

Cheila has passed on the Blue Sky Tag II to me. She blogs about all things that matter to her with a touch of humour and in a candid conversational style. Let’s put it thus, when you find yourself clicking on the link to her blog, you will not be calling me a fathead.

The Rules:

  • Give 11 questions
  • Tag 11 people
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you

Cheila’s Questions:

  • Do you live an a house or an apartment?

Apartment

  • Where are you from?

I was born in Oman and lived there the first 8 years of my life, grew up in Calcutta for the next 13 years and then went to New Delhi to study further and work. I now live in Northampton, UK. I carry all of them with me.

  • What do you do for a living? Are you happy doing it?

I write articles for magazines and newspapers. It has lessened a fair bit with all the blogging and reading blogs but I am working on a book alongside. I am content with the way things are at the moment because I know a change is coming up soon and there is nothing better than living in the moment.

  • What do you do to stay fit?

I do anything that catches my fancy. Once it was hot yoga (but boy it makes you almost pass out), spinning, pilates and and working out using weights. Now I go running in the park almost everyday and do yoga a few days a week.

  • What time do you wake up and go to bed?

Some days I get up between 6-7am, other days at 8am, and am off to bed by 11.30pm.

  • What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday?

I like to badger the husband to go on long, long walks to a park in another part of town. The badgering itself takes time and patience but it pays off with a lot of frowns and scowls and then the walk. After which we work off all that walking by sitting with a massive tub of popcorn each and binge watch films and shows.

  • Have you ever been in love?

Everyday of my life. I am in love with something or the other. The jackpot in my life is the husband and the memory of his dog Tuktuk who is the other great love I have. Tuktuk was a handsome, kebab-loving labrador who passed onto another realm a few years ago but has not left our hearts.

  • What do you always have in your fridge or pantry?

Salted caramel yogurt, milk, dark chocolate bark, berries, sunflower seeds, popping corn, baking soda and pecans. I have a lot more of course but if I put out an inventory…

  • What TV shows do you follow right now?

There are so many. Off the top of my head, The Americans, The Wine Show, Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland, The Vikings, Mr. Selfridges, Pretty Little Liars, The Man in the High Castle, Billions, The Voice, Happy Valley, The Missing, Storyville, Black Mirror…We are your quintessential TV show addicts.

  • What was the last book you read?

The Sword of Justice by Leif G.W. Persson.

  • If you could only wear one for the rest of your life, lipstick or mascara?

I am in a bold lip colour phase right now. For now, I hold on to my lipstick.

Nominees:

Not everyone wants to be tagged so I shall quietly leave the questions below and you can answer them in the comments or not.

My Questions:

  • Has the year begun well for you?
  • What do you have on the travel list for this year?
  • What books do you have by your bedside table?
  • Are you a city or quiet town/village kinda person?
  • Are you happy with where you live or do you want to live in another part of the world?
  • Which loyalty programs (airlines/hotels), according to you, are the ones to watch out for?
  • What are your plans for the upcoming weekend?
  • Books or films?
  • Mountains or the sea?
  • Your favourite buy from the last three months?
  • What’s for dinner tonight?

Before I wind off, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May the feast be fantastic.

 

 

Cirencester Under a Colourless Sky

You cannot let the weather beat you. We learnt that lesson in Norway when we went on a hike to Pulpit Rock. If the Norwegians did hold their head in their hands and sit inside because of inclement conditions outside, they would be inside, forever. The night before travelling to Stavanger, we were contemplating cancelling our flight tickets. The forecast was for thunderstorm and showers the whole weekend. Now, when we called the hotel we were booked with in Stavanger, we heard a cheery line from the other end: ‘There is no such things as bad weather, only bad clothes’. Right. Levels of optimism that might have tempted us to ask the person at the other end to ‘go take a hike’, except for the simple fact that we were the ones strictly off for a hike. Right after midnight we decided to lump overthinking and go for it. There is a point to all the rambling. It changed our attitude to travel. Unless of course there is lightning and thunderstorm predicted for hikes like Trolltunga. Then you would do well to think twice – imagine the troll’s tongue turning slippery and you jumping on it (for the simple joy that you have made your way to the tongue) but then finding yourself sliding off it into the rocks below, not even the fjord.

It was a spectacularly drab day when we woke up on Saturday last weekend. The kind that makes you think that a stormy blue sky is a blessing. The original plan of setting out for a walk in the Carding Mill Valley, a lovely heathland in the West Midlands, changed to a sedate saunter through a town in the Cotswolds. Cirencester. We make incessant trips to the Cotswolds (ref: The Wolds on the Windrush) but somehow we had missed out on this traditional market town. When we got into the town, we found the traditional limestone coloured buildings that are a key element in the landscape of the Cotswolds. If it was sunny how they would have glowed a honey gold.

But it was dark and the stones on the buildings seemed to acquire a weathered look. That said I do have a soft spot for the way those stones look aged like the ones on the church below. They give it a certain dignity. It impresses upon the gaping onlooker that it has been standing there for ages, a silent witness to the comings and goings of the people of the town over generations, which is as well because the parish church of St. John the Baptist is over a 1000 years old.

Now Cirencester is not your average pretty Cotswold village, crammed with chocolate box houses and bakeries. No sir, this is more of a busy and chic town made up of expensive Scandinavian-style fashion boutiques, a fair number of vintage and homeware stores to delight the senses, art centres, old halls (Corn Hall) that have been converted into crafts markets and a list of warm pubs, country inns and bistros. Not many tourists come through and I suppose locals are quite content with the fact. But if you are in Cirencester you know you have reached the former Roman city of Corinium that ranked second only to London in size and importance.

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St. John the Baptist is one of the best of the lot of wool churches in the Cotswolds funded by donations from rich wool merchants.
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Fossil-rich limestone typical to the Cotswolds adorns the gate and the cottage. Beyond the gate and hedges lie the property of the Earl and Countess of Bathurst, the Bathurst Estate. 

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We stopped at The Bear Inn, a fine gastro pub, for lunch. With its open fireplace, Tudor-style beams and rustic decor, it is supposed to be the oldest coaching inn in Cirencester.
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Bread and butter and Merlot. Can you possibly go wrong with that?
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Possibly the thickest cut of gammon Adi has had in all his time in the Blighty.
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I stuck with a chicken and mushroom fricassee topped up with arugula
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A pint of Brains, a smooth and hoppy ale from a Welsh brewery

After lunch it was time explore the town for knick-knacks.

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The Stableyard
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On Black Jack Street
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He Says She Waffles. A suffragette would shoot through the roof.
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Delicious full-fat Winstones Ice Cream. Double scoop of toffee crunch and honeycomb.
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A bit of this and that
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Stores inside The Stableyard

How to Get There: Cirencester is known as the Capital of the Cotswolds because of its central location in the area. Hiring a car is your best option to reach the town located at the intersection of four A roads and connected by the M4 and M5. The train station nearest is Kemble, about 6 miles off. Buses to and fro cannot be counted upon. So really, just drive.

Where to Stay:

The Fleece (thefleececirencester.co.uk) is a centrally located former coaching inn that dates back to the 17th century. Standard double rooms start at roughly £110 per night including breakfast.

The Old Brewhouse (theoldbrewhouse.com) is a good old bed & breakfast run in a 17th-century townhouse. Double rooms are pegged at £95 per night.

Where to Eat:

Jesse’s Bistro (jessesbistro.co.uk) offers modern British fare. A two-course menu starts at £20.

The Bear Inn offers British classics. They have a host of pre-set menu offers that are quite cost-effective and the food is good.

Made by Bob (foodmadebybob.com), a deli and café in the Corn Hall is a hit with the modish crowd. Its chef is Bob Parkinson, who trained at the South Kensington restaurant, Bibendum, in London. A two-course menu costs between £25-30.

What to Do:

Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre on the outskirts of town. It’s free.

St. John the Baptist church. Behind it are the abbey grounds where once stood an Augustinian abbey. It was razed down in the 16th century. Through the abbey’s remnant Norman archway, a path leads to Harebushes Wood for a woodland walk.

Cirencester Park, home to the Bathurst Estate, is open to the public for free. Timings: 8am-5pm.

Cirencester Antiques Centre (Antique Hunting in the Wolds) if you are fond of all things old.

Black Jack Street for more vintage browsing.

If you are done with seeing the town, head off to the picture-postcard villages of Bibury and Bourton-on-the-Water or towns like Burford.

 

Antique Hunting in the Wolds

Unworn. That single word inked on the tag hanging off the white wedding dress stared out at me. It was priced at 75 quid and possibly a size 12. I don’t why but it spoke to me of heartbreak, unless no one bought it, in which case it would have been heartbreak for the designer.

The stories that a dress can tell is for the imagination to conjure up. I read this book once, one of those feel-good stories, where a woman inherits a vintage dress shop and finds little notes of stories behind the dress tucked into each ensemble. I was quite struck by the notion. How wonderful would it be to walk into a shop and read about the kind of memories the former wearer associated with the dress.

So I took one more look at the dress, inched closer, careful not to let my bag swipe anything off the tables around (and give the husband an attack of the nerves with a bill of broken antiques) and examined  the satin silk. It really was exquisite. When I pondered about the ‘unworn’ bit with the husband while we were returning home, I swear that he said this: “She was hacked to death.” That just put paid to all my romantic thoughts.

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This post is not about unworn wedding dresses though.

We were in Cirencester (more on the town in the next post), a town in the Cotswolds, last weekend and my favourite part of the day was exploring an antique shop which has been run by the owner for the last 20 years.

It was about exploration as I walked into that old building, full of wooden beams and textured walls. I climbed the narrow stairs past ledges that had rustic vegetable carts sitting on them, some a little askew. The rooms branched off, taking me into further nooks and crannies where more and more old junk popped up. The view from the back of the building was of the church and the graveyard and it was quite so poetic to look up from a random bunch of old postcards and find them in my line of vision. This was it. I had hit jackpot and I could have carried it back home if drab matters such as practicality and price could have taken a hike.

I made a full fledged go for it, stalling in corners and examining old lamp shades, rifling through yellowed pages of beautifully bound books, staring lustily at books sold in elegant piles with faded roses atop them, card boxes from the 1920s, samovars from the 19th century, copper cider measures. Wait, what was an otter doing here? A donation from the Leicester museum? That might sit for an eternity inside the shop. I would have to make someone buy That if I had any plans of acquiring this treasure trove of a shop.

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Nifty little chest of drawers
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The dilemmas of every writer he spoke for in the introductory lines. John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress.
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Could we get a truck to carry these back home?
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A French card game from the ’20s
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Rusted lanterns. They remind me of the ones we used in my childhood home in Calcutta. They used to shed some light during extensive dark evenings of power cuts.
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See what I mean?
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Exotica
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Isn’t this lampshade so lovely?
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Why would anyone want to spend money on an otter snarling at them?
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A copper samovar circa 1800 as the tag says

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Warm corners, pipe-chugging-and-letter-perusing old men and cider measures

Some snatches of conversation that I could not help overhear.

“When I was in a poorhouse, I had one of those…” (from the corner of my eyes I saw a woman in a neat dress suit walk by as she said these words to her friend).

“Oh, look at this table. Touch the veneer. Rosewood and Victorian. Wouldn’t you love one of those?” (middle-aged man in a blazer with his woman friend as he took a round of the table and ran his fingers over the edge of it). I heard this one as I turned around to a glass case and shuddered. Black and blue bugs stored in several glass jars. And a cheeky one – a skeleton upturning a bottle of alcohol for a few last sips.

“That tie! And wait, is that a tie pin?” This took place at the till where the customer, a man with a shock of white hair and the look of an absent-minded but clean scientist, pulled on the tie of the owner of the centre standing behind the till. “I love the tie pin! Now I would not blame you for pressing manhandling charges on me, sir.” Sir gave him the amiable grin of a seller.

Supreme satisfaction in a single store, guaranteed.

 

The Blue Sky Tag

It is a mixed bag, this Tuesday. The clouds keep flitting in and yet the sun manages to part its way through them and shine awhile as I get on with this post on a tag by Jamie. I feel as thoughtful as that gull. So, Jamie’s blog is Don’t Give a Jam and I knew I wanted to follow her blog when I read that she is a firm believer in speaking before she thinks. What are the chances of finding someone that rare, right?

Thank you for the tag, Jamie. Here we go then.

Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions
  • Tag 11 people
  • Give them 11 questions to answer

Jamie’s Questions:

  • If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

Grilled toast. Though I might pass out from the boredom of it after a while and pass away into another realm where I would get to sink my teeth into something else. Where there is a will…

  • Favourite song of the moment?

Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells

  • What’s your favourite meal of the day?

Breakfast

  • What was the last book you read?

Fair Stood the Wind For France by H.E.Bates

  • What’s your favourite thing about yourself?

I cannot be angry for long

  • If you could be friends with one TV character, who would you choose?

Hercule Poirot

  • Do you have a nickname?

Mom (means Wax in Bengali). My mum specifies: ‘Hard category of wax’.

  • What current trend are you loving?

Bell sleeves

  • What’s your favourite app on your phone?

VSOC

  • What do you do first thing each morning?

Raise myself on the bed every morning to give my husband a pursed kiss before he leaves for work.

  • Would this tag make you feel more comfortable with 10 questions rather than 11?

And here I am at the 11th pondering if that is a trick question.

I nominate:

As with all my other tag posts, whoever wants to do this, please consider yourself tagged. So below are my set of queries.

My Questions:

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Do you work out every day?

What are your favourite reads from your bookshelf?

Are you experimental with tea?

Do you have a travel list for the year? What places are on the list?

What can you not do without every day?

The most scandalous thing you have done in life.

Your most treasured possession is…

Spring is…

Any random memory that makes you smile?

Hikes or sedate walks?

That’s all for today….tadaaa 🙂

 

 

 

Holi Kinda Day with Daffodils

Monday has dawned with clear perfection. The sun is shining in the clear blue dome above me and the spring air is sharp. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the daffodils are nodding their pretty yellow heads in the slight breeze as they almost seem to wish me a merry Holi.

It is the festival of colours that marks the arrival of spring in India. You essentially play with friends and family, coating each other in colour. The thicker the layer of colour on you, the whiter the teeth shining through the medley of colours on the face.  There are many stories behind the celebration of this Hindu festival which mainly revolve around the age-old concept of good triumphing over evil. The Hindu god Vishnu is said to have saved his follower Prahlada from a pyre in which Prahlada’s (evil) aunt Holika was burned. So there are usually bonfires of Holika the night before Holi to commemorate the tale.

But there is also a story of love couched in to the celebration. Originally coloured powders or gulal were popular (and thankfully for the last decade or so people have decided to go back to gulal instead of opting for synthetic colours). Now the Hindu god Krishna who had dark blue skin is supposed to have been troubled by the difference in complexion between his love Radha and him. To make the fair lady look like him, he mischievously smeared gulal on her face.

My earliest memories of Holi belong to my growing up years in Calcutta, as a 9-year-old, kitted out in raggedy clothes – not the super white clothes that people wear nowadays (just like everything else Holi too has had a fashionable makeover). Those rags were eventually going to be discarded or recycled next year. A bunch of friends would arrive at the door and I would promptly head out into the streets, smeared in oil carefully by my mother, so that the colours would not stick on the skin. The oil was of supreme importance. In those days, during the late 80s, synthetic colours had caught the imagination of all young boys and girls. They came in neon colours and would refuse to be washed off you. Seriously, they were bloody stubborn.

After an entire day of being out on the streets, doused in buckets of water into which colours (including opaque shades of silver and golden) had been generously emptied, I would ring the bell at home with some urgency. It used to get chilly by evening as the wet clothes dried out eventually under the harsh sun and I would return home with the colours baked into me. My mother would open the door to an urchin.

Every year she had the same horrified expression and refused to let me up into our upper floor. The routine never changed. She always came down to receive me, armed with a shampoo, a big bar of soap and a dish scourer. She would then go on to scrub me down with all her might in the shower downstairs in my father’s den-cum-office. There would be rivulets of purple-black-green colours streaking down my head and body after several rounds of shampoo and scrubbing. The end result would be raw skin, a very colourful visage even post my mother’s vigorous rounds of cleansing and a hungry, cranky little person who just wanted a lot of food. I continued to play Holi into my teenage years till I shifted to Delhi to study and work.

Suddenly I had left those years behind. I have not played Holi since and have not enjoyed it as much as I did.

In Delhi, I came across an aggressive, not-so-attractive version of the festival where it became an excuse for men to manhandle women they did not know and hurl water balloons at their bodies. It became a nightmare – the two weeks preceding Holi and the two weeks after the festival. I would come back home from work, often every alternate day with my blood boiling and tears of frustration and anger. My nice clothes would veritably be spoilt by colourful splotches from water balloons – which when thrown from a height like the balcony of a house or from a motor bike passing by can leave a stinging imprint.

But today as the sun shines beautifully from a blue, blue sky and I feel far away from the Delhi version of Holi, I remember the Calcutta version of it, the innocence of childhood making the memories rose-tinted.

 

 

The Cramm Award

Hiya,

This has been a weekend of chain tags. I am getting through them, not unlike an ox. This is an award post tag from Silvia of thehappiestpixel. She lives in a town somewhere in Spain and is a foodie who wants to make her way to Australia some day to hug a koala. Did that not put a smile on your face? You know where to find her. Go on, then.

The Cramm Award has been created by TheCramm (created by Liv).

The Rules for this Award are:

  • Include that little titbit about who created this award
  • Mention the person who nominated you
  • Share three things that motivate you to blog
  • Share three people who inspire you to blog
  • Share one thing you hope to do to improve about the world
  • Answer your challenge question
  • Nominate other bloggers and give them a fun challenge question

Three things that motivate you to blog:

  1. Ready Reference. My memory shall not get the better of me as I age. When I am chattering with my husband in dentures some day and reminiscing about those carefree young days (because when you are old there is pretty much your youth to look back to, unless you start doing crazy things at the age of 90 like some people do – you know, when they start biking across the world or swing from trees and you can see their ropy muscles), I want to be able to click on this blog with shaking digits and all, and quaver to him, “See this is what I meant. I was right all along,” and shake my head full of white mussed-up hair.
  2.  Blogging has brought me great pleasure in the past. As I did mention earlier in one of my posts, I had an anonymous personal blog which was like the diary of a young journalist. An angsty one. The alternate world I was privy to made it special. That you can have a batch of people in your life who you have never met or probably shall meet — yet they touch your lives in so many ways almost every day. It was time get back into the groove I had found once.
  3. Writing makes me happy. Releases those endorphins. I send stories to magazines and newspapers but nothing gives me the high of having my own platform. The part where I can give my kinda headline, captions and choose the kind of photographs I decide will look good. Yessir, it is my domain. To me blogging is a bit like running in the beautiful, huge park near my place (which makes me incredibly happy everyday). Only when I am blogging, the fingers and the mind run together in conjunction.

Three people who inspire you to blog:

  1. My husband
  2.  Life (for me is a wonderful friend)
  3. You who are reading this

One thing you hope to do to improve the world

Put troublemakers on a non-return flight to Mars.

Challenge question

If you were given a chance to correct your mistake or start a new life, would you take the chance? Why or why not?

I would not. I am inherently lazy so it would mean too much work, plus the mistakes, I believe, have conspired to bring me where I am. I think a lot but I also let certain things be because they are a part of this entire process called living. As a wise author noted: “Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Like the crowd greeting the gladiator. Don’t stop to think, don’t interrupt the scream, exhale, release life’s rapture.”

My nominees

All you bloggers who like the idea of this – go on, do it. 

My Challenge Question To You

What are the things in life you would hold onto and what would you let go of?

And on that note, I shall catch you again tomorrow morning.

Reminiscing Sundays

For this fine Sunday, here’s a set of postcards that takes me back to our summer in Seattle and the Pacific North West with my husband’s sister and her family. It was a hot but splendid summer spent exploring lavender farms and driving through scenic mountains wreathed in mist and past pretty passes, making our way into old American towns with typical diners and rail engines, chugging on iced teas and beer, guzzling wine like water after setting our mouths on fire with the hottest chilli sauce we have ever dug into, meeting good looking Native American boys in Canadian towns with hair that reached their waist (at that point I had a pixie hairdo so it made me miss my mane a fair bit), tucking into hot, hot, hot chicken wings with our niece and nephew gunning us on to compete for a level-7 challenge (this remains on our bucket list with them) which is supposed to send you screaming into town. You get the picture. We had a ball. That sentence could have gone on and on and yet it remains the longest sentence I have ever written. Happy browsing, folks.

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Mystery Blogger Award

Hello my lovely people,

How is your Saturday going? I am off to the former Roman town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. It is a middling day and sauntering in a town sounds like a better idea than walk upon moorlands which we had been looking forward to, but then the blasted weather always keeps changing and the plans do too.

I have been tagged by Cheila on the Mystery Blogger Award. Cheila is a Portuguese girl who lives with her partner and 2-year-old Rosa on the outskirts of Lisbon. Her blog is called Pink For Days. Don’t let the title mislead you. She is candid, humorous and she will get you thinking. Oh wait, I forgot to mention who Rosa is. But why don’t I let you figure it out for yourself, eh?

The mystery blogger award has been created by a blogger called Okoto Enigma.

Rules:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog post
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link
  • Tell readers 3 things about yourself
  • Answer the questions the blogger gave to you
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask nominees 5 questions of your choice (one weird/funny question)
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Myself:

  • I am a rambler by nature. I like to ramble in the countryside and then I also ramble on a fair bit when someone encourages me to let my tongue loose.
  • I have the personality of a dog. My nose leads me places. Into eateries, into bakeries, coffeeshops (the Dutch kind too) and chocolateries, and into second-hand book shops where I sniff up pages of old books like my life depends on it.
  • I am a popcorn maniac. I have it for dinner on certain days. It is like a vicious cycle of not being able to stop. If I do not let my will step in on Day 2, it could very well be a Popcorn Week. A tub of popcorn and a crime thriller on my lap is my idea of bliss.

Cheila’s Questions and My Answers:

  • Do you know where Portugal is? Do you know anything else about my country?

Oh yes, Portugal is one of my favourite destinations in Europe. It lives in a pocket of my mind so it would be difficult not to know where it is. What else I do know about your country? It is that it is a place for the soul, where the strains of Fado just make their way into the heart and leave it aching with melancholia couched in those powerful notes. And the food – the bacalhau, grilled seafood, cherry liqueur shots – is succulent and delightful. Then there are the streets of Lisbon and Sintra which have left me besotted with Portugal as much as writers Fernando Pessoa and Cesario Verde. I would live in Portugal in a heartbeat.

  • What’s your favourite snack?

Phuchka. It is a rustic street food in Calcutta, India. A crisp hollow ball stuffed with a filling of boiled potato, red chilli powder, fried spices, chopped green chillies and tamarind water. You pop it whole into the mouth and when it breaks it releases a spicy and sour goodness. Then giggle a bit because you know you look a tad bit silly as juices often dribble down the sides of the mouth. But then once you have it you know there is no turning back from more.

  • Are you saving to buy something?

The next travel destination.

  • What was the last movie you watched?

Four Lions

  • What is the name of your first love?

Garfield

Thank you Cheila, I did enjoy it.

My Questions to You:

  • What is the most adventurous thing you have done in life so far?
  • Your way of unwinding after a long day of work/being outside/travelling?
  • The most valuable lesson you have learnt so far in life?
  • What kind of music do you have on your playlist?
  • What would the title to your autobiography be?

My Nominees:

As before, I shall leave the choosing to do the tag bit to you. If you like the sound of it, do it…if not, carry on with the business of life. Cheers.

Even a Shed in Ravello Would Do

On the other side of Scala, far from the crowds of the Amalfi Coast is Ravello. The town hugs the top of a ridge that looks out onto the Gulf of Salerno. Our very first sight of it and we were irrevocably, irreversibly hooked. If a fairy godmother materialised and swished her wand for me, I would ask for a home in Ravello, on those mountains with a view of the inky Tyrrhenian. We would then be residents of a town with a history that goes back all the way to the 5th century when it was founded as refuge from attacks by barbarians. In time, it became a wool-producing, trading powerhouse in association with the Republic of Amalfi.

There is a story behind Ravello’s name. The first known inhabitants of this hamlet were Romans. There is little knowhow about Ravello from that period except for the fact that it was absorbed into the Republic of Amalfi during the 11th century. Two centuries later, its residents rebelled against Amalfi and the hamlet was dubbed ‘Rebellum’.

I revel in the sound of it. Ravello. Mark how it rolls off the tongue. And when locals enunciate it their sonorous way, she sounds like such a beauty, with the lush ways of a Sophia Loren about her.

The first thing you will notice from the coastal road that winds around the town, apart from the lush green hills and the very blue duet played by the sky and sea, is surely a modernist building that rises like a wave. It is a theatre designed by a Brazilian modern architect, Oscar Niemeyer, which sticks out incredulously in a medieval town. But then, it did fit in with the stories that add an aura of glitz to Ravello.

The town was the romping grounds of the rich and the beautiful during the ’50s and the ’60s. Stories abound, of the reclusive Greta Garbo who took off with conductor-composer Leopold Stokowski to the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello, in the midst of a highly secretive affair. Of how the villa was thronged, and Garbo heavily annoyed had remarked about the need for a doctor, ‘in case anyone is hurt’.

I could, in my imagination, see film stars clinking flutes of bubbly and emitting tinkling notes of laughter as they took breaks from lazy laps in the pool of the uber luxurious hotel that stood adjacent to the theatre building. A contrast to this picture was perched, immediately across the valley, atop lush green mountains in the form of an austere monastery.

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We ambled down to the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, a 12th-century church with steps leading down to the coastal town of Minori. Lured by the solitude, we descended the steps as a local led his donkeys down alongside, beneath a tall, lone Cypress. If we had been going down them steps in the old days, say in the 16th century, we might have been offered wine on our way down to Minori. The man who had built the church had apparently stipulated it to his heirs. 

We sat on the walls of that church, with a view across the Gulf of Amalfi. It had an unreal quality. We had turned out to be the hero and heroine of our own dreams.

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In the cathedral square of Ravello, stands Villa Rufolo, named after the powerful family who lived in it. They became even more famous when the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio made a Landolfo Rufolo one of his protagonists in Decameron.

D.H. Lawrence is said to have spent time in the villa when he started writing Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Yes, writers such as Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster and Andre Gide too had soaked in the wondrous charm of Ravello, not to leave out the German opera composer Richard Wagner.

Wagner visited Villa Rufolo in the late 1800s and he was inspired to compose the opera Parsifal. On a stone plaque on the walls of the villa are immortalised the words: ‘Il magico giardino di Klingsor è trovato’. It means ‘the magical garden of Klingsor has been found’. Now, every year Villa Rufolo hosts a Wagnerian concert in its gardens and this summer music festival gives it the epithet, la città della musica (The City of Music).

Standing upon the terraces of Villa Cimbrone, a few yards from Villa Rufolo, I could appreciate the words of Catullus that’s inscribed upon a bronze statute of Hermes: ‘Lost to the world of which I desire no part, I sit alone and speak to my heart, satisfied with my little corner of the world, content to feel no more sadness for death.’

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Things to Do: 

Mamma Agata’s (http://www.mammaagata.com/) cooking class. She has cooked for the likes of Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart and has many a story to tell.

Take the coastal footpath down to Minori.

Monastero Di Santa Chiara. You have to plan for it. It is open only on Sundays for morning service.

Ravello-Atrani walk along one of the oldest routes on the coast.

 

Where to Stay: 

Villa Amore (http://www.villaamore.it/), a basic bed & breakfast priced between €120 and €150 per night.

Hotel Rufolo (http://www.hotelrufolo.com/). Superior Sea View Rooms start at € 195 per night. The hotel has a roll-call of famous names to boast of, and one of it guests, French writer Lucette Desvignes wrote words that makes you want it all. She had noted: ‘From the medieval towers to the infinity of the sea, all belongs to you: mountains, coast, lemon valley or vineyard, magic garden, Moorish cloister, Byzantine cupolas, pine trees, all is yours and you take it with you when you leave.’