Reading matters……

 I don’t think I have read any other Murakami, so this – ‘Killing Commendatore’  – would be interesting. It certainly was. As you get into the book the first thing that strikes you is that Murakami is a beautiful writer, a craftsman of the first order. No two ways about it the prose sparkles. And those critics who say that he is a master story teller ‘exhilarating’, ‘bewitching’, are right. He is. However, what I can’t agree is that the story Murakami tells 9781784707330.jpgin this novel is plausible or satisfactory. The Commendatore a two-feet tall gremlin? Paintings as portals to ‘the other world’? Really. Others might find this an esoteric mix between the domestic and the fantastic. I just found it plain silly. The novel is about a dissatisfied painter whose wife has just left him, who is holed up in a mountain retreat that is the old home of a famous painter with a murky past. His relationships with those around him, are described in infinite detail, which never grates, including that with a wealthy neighbour who built his house so that he could spy on a young girl he believes may be his daughter. It is all the background to a gripping story. But little folk? Come on. Surely you are better than that Murakami. A long read – very pleasurable, but ultimately very unsatisfactory. Suspend my disbelief? See the whole thing as a metaphor? I don’t think so.

‘The Librarian of Auschwitz’ is based on the true story of Dita Kraus, a 14 year old girl who is imprisoned in the hell that was Auschwitz. When the Jewish leader in the campUnknown.jpegasks Dita to take charge of the 8 precious books that are all that keep the rotting corpses in touch with civilisation she agrees at enormous risk to herself. If found with the books she will undoubtedly be shot, or worse. The story has many interesting aspects including the ‘extended library’ whereby some people knew other books so well they could teach others about them in the underground school. Obviously the horror of the camp is the background to all this, but the only thing I found slightly irritating was that through most of the book this seems to be a little sanitised. You couldn’t get the full horror of the unspeakable conditions. The infamous Mengele is there to add a further layer of evil. An important addition to the literature.

Reading matters……..

9780008390600-1.jpgI started Hilary Mantel’s ‘The Mirror and the Light’ with a great deal of pleasurable anticipation, having really enjoyed Wolf Hall but not found its follow-up ‘ Bring Up The Bodies’ quite so good. I found some infelicity in the language at the very beginning of this last part of the trilogy, and the odd error (someone threw down a pen for instance……a pen? I think not) but forgetting this, it was sheer enjoyment throughout. With such a large book and such a huge cast of characters, it was indeed right that there was a full Dramatis Personae at the start. The trouble with reading  at bedtime however, and then putting the book aside each night, was that I was continually having to refer to that list. Perhaps a small price to pay for an ageing brain. The thing is with Cromwell, we all know he is going to get his head chopped off, so we have the denouement constantly in mind, and in my own case finding him a sympathetic lead character I was always wanting him to get on with his life and get things done. I don’t think he can come in for any criticism on that score. His rags to riches tale is certainly impressive, and what he achieved in transforming the religious ethos and culture of the whole country is frankly amazing. Told in historic detail (as for instance in Dermot Mccullough’s incredibly well-researched biography)  one gets bogged down with his administrative dealings, but not in Hilary Mantel’s hands. The book flows. Another prize for Mantel? I hope so – she deserves it.

Reading matters……..

the-forsyte-saga-complete-collection.jpgI purchased this because something, I don’t know what, made me think of the BBC TV series in the 60’s which starred Nyree Dawn Porter, Eric Porter and Kenneth More amongst others. Everybody but everybody was glued to the TV at peak time on a Saturday evening…all ages, and no-one went for their Saturday night out without seeing it. No catch-up in those days. The book, which is really a trilogy – ‘The Man of Property’‘In Chancery’ and ‘To Let’ is joined together by two short stories ‘Indian Summer of a Forsyte’ and ‘Awakening’ . Altogether just under half a million words made this an epic read. And it is of the highest quality. Since he wrote it all in the 30’s Galsworthy has had a pretty poor press with the critics, but the public have ignored that and loved it. In the last decade or two the critics have come round to the public’s view. Interesting! Basically it is about the varying relationships of one very large upper-middle class family in High Victorian and then Edwardian England. As well as extremely good characterisation, and plots which you want to follow to their outcome, the background is fascinating as many of the main themes of Great Britain in those days are explored – from Empire and foreign travel through to politics, the introduction of the motor car and so much else besides. I cannot speak of the novel too highly. And the short story ‘Indian Summer of a Forsyte’ is so memorable a description of what it is to grow old and not be able to do the things you want, and at the same time the anguish that comes from unrequited love that it will stay with you for ever. What a read.

A Week in the New Forest…….October 2019….Part 2

20191016_112119 copy.jpgAnother day, another nice thing to do. This time a gentle 2 or 3 mile walk along the river from our house to Bucklers Hard.  Board walks in some places to avoid getting wet.20191016_112522 copy.jpgAnd brilliant views of what is a very scenic river indeed.20191016_114824 copy.jpg20191016_115154 copy.jpgAt Bucklers Hard itself we enjoyed the Georgian village, once a thriving shipbuilding village where ships for Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar were built……now, as the blurb says,  ‘a tranquil haven’. At the river end of the Buckler’s Hard high street was The Master Builder’s House Hotel where we enjoyed a refreshing drink in the gardens…….20191016_123701 copy.jpgWe hadn’t been to the seaside yet on this holiday, so off we went in the afternoon to Milford on Sea, a very pleasant location with a good, noisy, shingly beach and a distant view of The Needles. 20191016_154905 copy.jpgI’m sure all these colourful beach huts will be open on a sunny day……..20191016_155431 copy.jpgBut we enjoyed ourselves ……….skimming stones amongst other things….20191016_165329-copy.jpg20191016_155113 copy.jpgand the children’s play area had some unusually good activities…20191016_162850 copy.jpgand what nicer at the seaside than to have fish and chips on the promenade?20191016_174631 copy.jpegOur cottage being in Beaulieu it would have been ridiculous to have gone home without visiting Palace House and its world-famous car museum. But a stately home, gardens and a car museum for a 5 year old? As it happens, we need not have worried. Aiisha enjoyed the visit as much as anybody, as everywhere there had been a huge attempt made to keep things family-friendly.20191017_113031 copy.jpgWe went in the car museum first, and not only was it very nostalgic for people who had themselves owned an Austin Healey, a Zephyr, and a Zodiac, and an Austin A35, but it was all incredibly interesting , and there was always something to capture our attention.20191017_120713 copy.jpg20191017_120728 copy.jpg20191017_121503 copy.jpg20191017_121454 copy.jpg20191017_121623 copy.jpgand didn’t my family look absolutely splendid in Edwardian motoring gear………20191017_121953 copy.jpgalthough the wind can play havoc with the driver’s hat!20191017_122046 copy.jpgOver 16 million Model T Fords were manufactured before production ceased in 1927 and interestingly British cars came in blue and green before black became standard in 1914. In the 1920’s grey, red and grey were offered. The first British factory had opened in my home town of Manchester in 1911. The model on show here cost £135 and did 40mph……..20191017_122750 copy.jpgAiisha loved the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car (amongst many other things aimed at children)….20191017_122907 copy.jpgand would really have loved to have had a go in this Atco junior trainer designed in the 1930’s to give children basic experience of road craft. Everything is as in a full size car but miniaturised with the exception of there being just 2 gears forward and back.20191017_123459 copy.jpgMind you we did find the interactive driving games exciting….20191017_130632-copy-2.jpgand we got to sit on an old bus…………20191017_124831 copy 2.jpgand then after a great lunch have a trip around the grounds in a replica 1912 London bus. It stopped at the house…….. 20191017_132532 copy 2.jpgso we decided to get off and have a look around the historic home of the Montagu family, and later at the ruins of the Abbey………..I can’t stress too highly how accessible everything was and how involving. The house, although stuffed with the usual expensive objets and pictures and furniture and so on, was different from any other I have been in, in that not only was photography allowed, but you could touch or get close to virtually everything. Amazing.20191017_135019 copy 2.jpg desktop-attraction_Day-Visits-Abbey_w870px_h475px.jpgOne surviving building from the Abbey – the Domus – was once the living quarters of the lay brothers………..20191017_163328.jpgAnd in here were displayed a whole series of embroideries designed by Belinda, Lady Montagu which depict the history of the Abbey. They were exquisite.20191017_163550-copy-2.jpg20191017_163511-copy-2.jpgWhat else did we do? Visit the Top Gear museum where all the old episodes were showing (of the proper Top Gear with Jeremy et al) alongside the actual vehicles featured………good fun.20191017_153256 copy 2.jpg20191017_153928 copy 2.jpg20191017_154316 copy 2.jpgThis was followed by a go for all of us on the full-scale simulator – racing round the Dunsfold Park test track in a Caterham and a Bugatti Veyron. Exciting.20191017_160527-copy-2.jpgWe then went for a trip on the mile-long monorail, the oldest in England on a sedate tour of the attraction from above, with sweeping views of the grounds and gardens before passing right through the roof of the National Motor Museum to give another take on things.20191017_155246 copy 2.jpg20191017_155652 copy 2.jpgWe just had time then to stroll round the gardens, which were lovely…..20191017_161639 copy 2.jpeg20191017_162515 copy 2.jpgA really really good time was had by all, and I can’t recommend this place enough. A fantastic week in a lovely house in a lovely part of the country.

On our way home F. and I diverted a short distance to visit the museum of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Always interesting to see how the downtrodden were able to secure basic rights due to the bravery and persistence of a few heroes. Small but worth visit.Martyrs colour_0.jpg

A Week in the New Forest…October 2019

20191016_110618 copy.jpgA week in the New Forest in October in a house in the trees with rain forecast every day didn’t seem to augur too well. In the event the rain held off at critical times and at other times we didn’t mind getting wet. After all, being British, we accept bad weather with the equanimity it deserves for what it is. Getting wet is not something you seek, but when you are wet, well you’re wet and that’s sort of ok.20191013_155135 copy.jpgWe were all converging on the house from different directions. F and me in our car from Cornwall, Katherine and Aiisha from Southampton airport, and David and Jennifer from London. On our way we called into Forde Abbey as it was on our route and free to HHA members. A good call for lunch. Forde Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery dating back to the early 12th century. One of the richest abbeys in England it was of course quickly dissolved by Henry VIII. It then had a rich and varied history as a private home. Its first lay owner entertained the Duke of Monmouth as he planned his rebellion and ended up in the Tower of London, and Jeremy Bentham also rented the house for a period during the 19th century, and did much of his writing here.

It was in fact converted into quite a palatial family home during the mid 17th century. The house has exquisitely ornate plaster ceilings throughout the state rooms, together with a collection of very impressive Mortlake tapestries woven from cartoons drawn by Raphael for the Sistine Chapel. It is indeed a unique family house.

Throughout the 20th century the 30 acres of gardens that surround the  house have been transformed by the present owners. The gardens are now a diverse and breathtaking landscape fit for the house that they surround, from the productive Kitchen Garden, to the Arboretum, Rock Garden, Herbaceous Borders, Bog Garden, and Woodland Garden.

20191011_135552 copy.jpg20191011_122337 copy.jpgAnd with it being near to Halloween they had lavish displays everywhere of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes…20191011_135300 copy.jpg20191011_122314 copy.jpgA fleeting but fascinating visit. Now, the clans having gathered and made ourselves at home, we set out on the first full day for Lymington as I knew the market was there on Saturdays….the journey there gave us some inkling of just how many ponies we would see in the following days…..they are everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, (and very friendly).20191012_104618 copy.jpgWe loved Lymington, who wouldn’t, and the busy and engaging market stretched in two rows a long long way down the main shopping street, and was great. We also found amazing bargains in a charity shop where we purchased 5 or 6 games suitable for children and adults (bearing in mind the weather).20191012_115926 copy.jpgAt the end of the main run a couple of very pretty cobbled streets took us down to the harbour….where we availed ourselves of some refreshments and lunch.20191012_120315 copy.jpg20191012_120639 copy.jpg20191012_125220 copy.jpgA great place all round. A bit later in the day we walked along country paths to Beaulieu where we encountered rather a lot of donkeys (also friendly).20191012_170023 copy.jpgNow why didn’t the others follow the example of this one sheltering under a large archway? Mind you, they do always seem to look sad….20191012_165927-copy.jpgBack ‘home’ it was time for a belated birthday cake for Katherine and Aiisha which went down well, and after it some of the games we had bought.20191012_193433 copy.jpgThe ‘Load the Camel’ game was hilarious and we played with it lots of times. When overloaded it kind of jumped into life shocking me more than anyone every single time, and scaring poor Aiisha!20191012_200713.jpegSunday was to be our adventure day. We walked to the Outdoor Activities Centre at Beaulieu….20191013_092431 copy.jpgand prepared for our bike rides. Very very enjoyable if a little scary (as one of the main cycle routes was closed for pony counting!!) leaving us no option but to travel on busy main roads. 20191013_100400 copy.jpg20191013_110905 copy.jpg20191013_110942 copy.jpgHaving completed our rides we prepared for canoeing. As you can see the rain was not putting anyone off.20191013_122835 copy.jpg20191013_123134 copy.jpgWe travelled upstream to the weir at Beaulieu where we called into a little inlet for cups of hot chocolate provided by our instructor Chris. He was a terrific guide pointing out lots of rivery things, and always aware of which birds and features we were seeing…20191013_130959 copy.jpg20191013_132324 copy.jpgA great day all round, and highly recommended.20191013_135751 copy.jpgAlways nice to have a pint or whatever in the local Beaulieu pub after our exertions……20191013_172705 copy.jpg20191013_173736 copy.jpgAnd a nice sky on our walk home.20191013_182531-EFFECTS copy.jpgAnother day took us to Portsmouth where we were to see the Mary Rose (something I have always wanted to do). The dockland surroundings were very impressive and we glimpsed some very famous ships before entering a very active repair and building shed……..20191014_134238 copy.jpg20191014_134906 copy.jpgwhere we had a very decent lunch ( and did a bit of colouring)…..20191014_135313 copy.jpg20191014_144536 copy.jpgGetting closer to the Mary Rose museum we were intrigued and impressed by Nelson’s very own HMS Victory…20191014_152029 copy.jpg20191014_152051_001 copy.jpg20191014_152134 copy.jpgand in between it and the Mary Rose was the iconic 25ft statue ‘Embracing Peace’, also known as Unconditional Surrender. This European replica of the US based original has been touring Europe, the original statue famously depicting an embrace in Times Square, New York, at the end of the World War II, between a returning serviceman and a local girl. Very impressive indeed.20191014_152331 copy.jpgAt last the Museum. We didn’t really know what to expect and whether it would be suitable for a 5 year-old. We were not to be disappointed. The ship itself at the centre, of course, of the museum is encircled by a “Hot Box” chamber that houses it whilst a highly technical drying out process takes place. Spotlit in different places at different times it is magical to see, and surrounding it on several floors equivalent to the decks are many of the items recovered from the ship which tell us so much about the England of Henry VIII and those who worked in its navy.20191014_154808 copy.jpgItems which show the essence of a very powerful warship of its day, and a warship which moreover had already had a successful career of 34 years (news to me).20191014_154911 copy.jpgAnd items which show us how its crew lived – and died.20191014_154036 copy.jpg20191014_155734-copy.jpgThese are items from the carpenters store….20191014_155012 copy.jpgand in their midst something which to me was the most astonishing thing of all…..20191014_155639 copy.jpg….this multi-purpose tool. How incredible, a Swiss Army knife of the sixteenth century.20191014_155644 copy.jpegThere was so much to see that we only were able to have a good look at a tiny fraction…..20191014_163011 copy.jpg20191014_161553 copy.jpgWho could not be impressed by the galley with its two large, brick built ovens each with a huge copper cauldron on the top. Meat and fish were boiled in these to feed the 400 or 500 men on board. No chimneys – the smoke was trapped in a box-like area above the ovens, where it could be used to flavour fish and meat.20191014_162851.jpgThe adults were entranced. And as for Aiisha, there were interactive games..20191014_160048 copy.jpgskeletons to rebuild…..20191014_162509 copy.jpg20191014_161419 copy.jpgclothes to dress up in….20191014_154113 copy.jpgfood casks to see what people eat….20191014_163216.jpgand a kind of treasure hunt where successfully spotting various things all around the museum was rewarded with a certificate and badge. What a successful day. And we can return any time in the next year – we will!20191014_164047 copy.jpgYet another day found us at Poultons Park a theme park like no other and the #1 UK theme park as voted for by TripAdvisor, Mumsnet and Which readers, and most definitely by the Smith family. It was quite exceptional. Our first job on entering was to get ourselves fed and watered. And I can honestly say that the curry I had was one of the very best (and cheapest) curries I have ever had. Terrific to find such quality in a theme park.20191015_105619 copy 2.jpegAnd what then struck us before anything else was the beauty of the surroundings with Japanese gardens, dinosaur jungles, 20191015_110406 2 copy.jpg20191015_111746 2 copy.jpg20191015_114611.jpgand lots of birds………20191015_114258 copy 2.jpgBut of course some of us had come for the rides, and they were great. Naturally neither F. nor I  ventured  onto the more extreme, adrenelin-inducing rides but we did try some of the more moderate ones which gave us ample flavour of what theme park rides are about…..20191015_125745-copy.jpg20191015_110951 copy.jpg20191015_112839 copy.jpg20191015_112908 2 copy.jpgAnd what I found fascinating was the way that Aiisha not only got super enjoyment from the big rides, but also from the gentler ones too……20191015_113209 copy.jpg20191015_121901 copy.jpg20191015_121526 copy.jpeg20191015_123521 copy.jpg20191015_125501 copy.jpg20191015_130720-2-copy.jpg20191015_131025 copy.jpgAnd at the end, to cap it all off there was Peppa Pig’s World, and who couldn’t like that?20191015_144105-2-copy-1.jpg20191015_150527 2 copy.jpeg20191015_150725_001 copy.jpg20191015_154154 copy.jpg20191015_160811 copy.jpg20191015_104409 2.jpg20191015_143953.jpegA really, really really successful day…..well done to Paulton Park!

Reading matters……

91OwoXUQWwL copy.jpgBeing held up with the sale of our house prior to moving to Cheshire (or Lancashire, not absolutely definite yet……), I have had to make do with reading about the county. I was glad to see on a recent visit to Waterstones that a new guide was out in the ‘Slow Travel’ series by Bradt. This I have devoured from cover to cover. It really is a most unusual and brilliant series of guides. Written by local experts, ‘Cheshire’ was a revelation. So many out of the way places, restaurants, farm shops, attractions of all kinds that we haven’t yet visited in our trips up North. And what you quickly learn in this guide is that your probable preconceptions about the county – flat, inland, dairy farms, cheese, the houses of footballers and Coronation Street stars – is wide of the mark in many respects. Parts of the countryside are as beautiful as anywhere, there are some lovely heights to walk along and get amazing views, Cheshire has a coast (the Wirrall) which is well worth a visit. And history and industrial interest are everywhere. And undoubtedly Chester itself is one of my absolute top-favourites of small towns, more spectacular than York in both setting and what it contains. Thanks to ‘Cheshire’ I am more anxious than ever to migrate there!71auesail3l-copy.jpg

Before our recent trip to Verona, I sent for the book ‘Italian Neighbours : An Englishman in Verona’ by Tim Parks. It seemed a natural for anyone visiting this most splendid of cities. But the more I got into the book, the more and more disappointed and frustrated I became, because this wasn’t about Verona at all but about the little village somewhere near Verona where Parks lives. Verona got about two mentions. Whilst it was moderately interesting in itself, it really was something that should have fallen foul of the Trades Descriptions Act. Caveat Emptor!91myUPhS1GL copy.jpg                                                                                                         Having fallen completely in love with Venice again ( we were only there for a few hours), we have both been re-reading the Commisario Brunetti novels by Donna Leon. ‘Death At La Fenice’ is the very first, and I have just finished it. It certainly doesn’t read like a first novel (as so many first novels do), and all of the characteristics which are in the many later novels are also present here. The emphasis on Brunetti’s home life, the pointing up of differences between how men think and how women think, the drinks and the meals, the description of place, the realistic conveying of how Venice ‘feels’, the ever=present undercurrents of Italian politics and corruption – all are just as important as the plots which are never very convoluted and therefore ideal bedtime reading. So glad we went to Venice to get us back into reading these brilliant evocations of Italian life!!!

Heritage Open Day in Liskeard….September


20190914_105822.jpegWe only discovered the Heritage Open Day was happening in Liskeard for two days by chance on the internet. We missed the first day. After parking the car on our walk into town we came to the first of the buildings we visited – a private house called Tregantle. What an eye opener this was. We had passed it many times, without a thought really, other than that it was quite a nice frontage. Stepping inside the owner had taken the trouble to do a tremendous amount of research about its history and its design by the famous Liskeard architect Henry Rice.                                                                                                                        Henry Rice started out as a land surveyor and architect who went on to transform Liskeard. He had a strong social conscience and made frequent sanitary inspections of the densely populated and poverty-stricken courts where the poor lived. His findings were recorded in his ‘Nuisance’ notebooks, which make fascinating, if sometimes gruesome, reading. As a result the corporation made him Inspector of Nuisances. He also brought piped water and sewers to the town.
Born in Kenwyn parish, Rice was a farmer’s son and staunch Methodist who lived the whole of his adult life in Liskeard. Over 100 of his buildings, mostly in the Classical style, survive, including a large number of terraces built along the roads into the town.

20190914_103748.jpgThis is the front room as is. The owner had bought the house  with all the ‘improvements’ you would expect from the early 70’s – artex ceilings, ripped out fireplaces, everywhere painted magnolia etc etc. Over a period of time, and particularly when she had retired from teaching, she gradually transformed the house reinstalling original Victorian fireplaces and reinstating appropriate colour schemes and trying to preserve every detail from the original designs. A true labour of love. I didn’t like to take photos as we were really guests in her house…..20190914_103844.jpgbut this is one of the two staircases….20190914_104543.jpgand this picture shows industrial use right outside the rear of the property. And this is still in use as a glass making premises……The Glassworks address is actually Pavlova Mill. The mill dates back to the 19th century where it was used as a tannery making gloves. There is very little history on Pavlova Mill but it is said to have been named after the Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history! The tannery is said to have made gloves exclusively for the dancer, whether or not this is true, the mill has taken her name. Interesting!20190914_104254.jpgNext stop was the Weslyan Methodist Church which we had often admired from outside. The original chapel burnt down and was financed and rebuilt largely as now within a two year period. They didn’t mess about did they the Victorians? Inside a volunteer showed us around and pointed out the original and rough wooden stool used by John Wesley when he preached in Cornwall.Methodist-Church.jpg The building was designed for 300 worshippers….20190914_110316.jpgand the plaster ceiling is impressive. Henry Rice designed an extension a little later.20190914_110430.jpgAnd the church became a very prominent organisation within Liskeard. Upstairs to one side this enormous hall was used for teaching. Indeed in the Second World War teaching still took place in the church’s cellars! Average congregation these days is about 30.20190914_111335.jpgOn our way past Stuart House a late medieval house where King Charles stayed in the Civil War. F. showed me the garden which I hadn’t’t seen before, but which is very inviting for tea and cake.20190914_113426.jpgThe Mayor’s Parlour  and Civic Chamber were supposed to be open, but weren’t…….20190914_114023.jpgSo off we went to St Martin’s Church unvisited before. It includes some Norman fragments, but is mostly 15th century. The South Chapel dates from 1428, the south chancel aisle from 1430, and additions to the north side from 1477. The tower was repaired in 1675, but was largely rebuilt between 1898 and 1902 at a cost of £6,400 (equivalent to £682,500 in 2018) by John Sampson of Liskeard. And the main point in coming today was to climb the tower.20190914_115430.jpgFirst we both had a go at bell ringing – unsuccessfully. It is much harder to get the knack than I thought.20190914_115458.jpegThen whilst F. had a coffee I climbed the tower. First we went to the bell ringers’ domain where they entertained us to a number of peals. Very interesting.20190914_121354.jpgThen, having been issued with ear plugs, we went up to the bell chamber, whilst the performance continued. Hands over ears were necessary as well as plugs!20190914_122827.jpgPartially deaf now, we ascended more steps to the top where we had the great privilege of seeing Liskeard and its surrounds from a viewpoint normally out of bounds……the day was fine and picture taking conditions good….20190914_123106.jpg20190914_123111.jpg20190914_123134.jpegIt was good to see the uniform nature of the roofs nearly all with Delabole slates. This common pattern of roofing does add immeasurably to the character of any historic town. 20190914_123147.jpg20190914_123248.jpeg20190914_123317.jpeg20190914_123402.jpgTime for one more photo out of one of the niche windows on the way down….20190914_123945.jpegWalking around the outside of the church we saw it from angles unfamiliar to us…..20190914_124715.jpg20190914_124951.jpg………and descended into town past some very nice rows of cottages. A very instructive two or three hours which made us much more appreciative of the buildings and community of Liskeard.20190914_125213.jpg


A trip to the opera in Verona – Part 4

20190905_152555.jpg……. all of a sudden here was ‘the bridge with no parapet’. Worth seeing, but a minute later there were about ten people on there having their photos taken…….20190905_152519.jpgLooking at our map we saw we were fairly near the Rialto Bridge and so we headed there with the thought of using our vaporetto tickets some more. 20190905_153824.jpgAfter a quick think we caught a vaporetto going to Murano island, famous of course for its glass…..20190905_154738.jpgWe went under the Rialto….20190905_154551.jpgand were soon on our way up the Grand Canal again….20190905_155444.jpg20190905_155618.jpg20190905_155746.jpg20190905_160401.jpga lovely relaxing ride over the lagoon, and we were there.20190905_164237.jpg20190905_164406.jpgWhat a contrast to Venice. No hoards of people. No clicking cameras. Just a smattering of ordinary people who actually live here. Yes there were a number of glass shops and I am sure Murano does get busy. But not when we were there, thank goodness.20190905_164815.jpg20190905_165650.jpg20190905_165654.jpegThe church’s plain facade and stark isolated bell tower belied the face it presented to the canal…..20190905_170008.jpgand there were some lovely features inside, including the floors…20190905_165110.jpg…and naturally some glass work……20190905_165506.jpgthere were even ordinary shops…..20190905_170706.jpgand rows of ‘ordinary’ houses….20190905_170756.jpgFeeling thirsty just before we were to catch our return boat, and unable to find a local bar or cafe, we popped into a boutique hotel which had just recently opened…. we were on our own.20190905_172614.jpeg20190905_172653.jpgIt was really very pleasant, and the view………20190905_175229.jpgWe returned a slightly different way across the lagoon and this took us past the cemetery on San Michele island… in fact the whole island is only occupied by churches and by long ranks of tombs. Fascinating.20190905_182114.jpg20190905_184647.jpg20190905_184925.jpgWe disembarked at the station where we were a little early, but the evening light was fantastic….20190905_190451.jpg20190905_191150.jpgand rather than join the policeman and his girlfriend at the station bar, we took our drinks outside with a bag of crisps and sat on the steps…..20190905_194203.jpeguntil the turning on of the lights notified us of our train….20190905_194947.jpegBack in Verona, the evening mood walking through the streets for home was delightful….20190906_195353.jpgand in Verona as in Milan we were always seeing stylish new shops……here a quirky display from an optician. For some reason F. told me Verona is famous for its opticians and eye-testing……..20190906_200655.jpgThe next day, our last, we were due to catch a bus to Lake Garda a short distance away, but we were awakened to an enormous storm (lots and lots of thunder and lightning). It lasted all day and led to us staying in and playing a new and enjoyable game, given to us by our daughter, lots and lots of times (Bananagrams). The weather abated for the evening and we had a last stroll around Verona, calling at a locals bar for a last drink or two….20190906_201504.jpg20190906_203211.jpgOn the day of our leaving we popped around the corner to the cake shop we had only just discovered for breakfast, again with lots of locals who nearly always stand….20190907_093227.jpg20190907_093956.jpgand after a last shop at the grocers for a bottle of Limoncello and some olive oil..we made our way to the bus stop by the river, passing a very busy artists school…20190907_111000.jpg20190907_111115.jpgto arrive eventually in plenty of time at the airport – this time Bergamo – which as you can see is quite scenic itself. What a magnificent trip.20190907_150327.jpg

A trip to the opera in Verona – Part 3

20190905_092307 copy.jpegAfter a quick cup of coffee next morning we caught the bus to the station and then the Italo train to Venice (all booked at home on Trainline). I still can’t get over the amazing sight that greets you on coming out of the station concourse. You are immediately in the heart of Venice and its canals. Right there. At the start of the Grand Canal. It’s like stepping onto a film set. Incredible.20190905_110519 copy.jpegWe knew that the water taxis – the famous vaporetti – would be nearby. They were right outside.20190905_112445 copy.jpegWe grabbed a day ticket each (12 Euros) and what a bargain that proved to be. It was worth it for the trip into the centre alone. The boat went more or less the whole length of the Grand Canal stopping along the way. What a journey. Click after click went my mobile.20190905_114010 copy.jpeg20190905_114103 copy.jpegAnd what I couldn’t get over was how busy the waterways were. Particularly with goods traffic. Everything from dredgers with their miasmatic loads to DHL boats (imagine) to fruit and veg boats. I really hadn’t appreciated that this was how it would be.20190905_114402 copy.jpg20190905_114509 copy.jpgI understand that gondoliers get around £95,000 a year……..but they still can’t afford to live in Venice itself…….20190905_114723.jpeg

20190905_115715.jpgBut the architecture was something else. We all know the problems of Venice – the stupidly large cruise ships, the conversion of old buildings to hotels, flats, Airbnb, the loss of residents to tourism. According to Bloomberg ‘The city’s population basically peaked in the 1500s, and though it rallied again to near 16th century levels in the 1970s, today there are just one third as many Venetians as 50 years ago.’ Less than 50,000 residents compared to over 20 million visitors each year, of which over half are day trippers (just like us). It’s all a disaster. Basically the place is a museum. But what a museum! 20190905_120128.jpg20190905_120307.jpgAll too soon our journey was over and we disembarked at the Piazza San Marco. 20190905_121030.jpeg20190905_121510.jpgBecause we were here for such a short time we had no intention of actually going inside places (just as in Milan). That would have been pointless to try. Instead we wanted to ‘feel’ Venice. So, we enjoyed the sheer size and splendour of the Doge’s Palace…..20190905_121606.jpgthe Piazza itself (Napoleon called it the drawing room of Europe)……20190905_121825.jpgand of course the Basilica….20190905_122010.jpg20190905_121811.jpgas well as the Renaissance-style clock tower20190905_121920.jpgHowever fairly quickly and decisively we headed off down the nearest street in order to escape the tourists….(sorry, I should say the other tourists)….20190905_122200.jpegThat escape never came. We walked 30,000 steps that day, (according to my app about 12 miles, but say 8 or 9 miles), and we never got rid of other tourists. They were literally everywhere. And not only tourists, but tourists’ shops. Like Blackpool in the 50’s. Well not quite.20190905_123442.jpgBut you could have 200 million visitors a year let alone 20 million, and you still wouldn’t take away the beauty, the specialness of the city…..around every corner, and I do mean every corner, a wonderful view……20190905_123623.jpg20190905_125320.jpgWe were heading for the district of Castello to visit a special bookshop. But we just headed in a general direction, not concerned whether we got lost…..which we did frequently…20190905_125532.jpeg20190905_125536.jpg20190905_130023.jpgand eventually we were there……the Libreria Acqua Alta. In this unique shop, which has been called one of the most beautiful in the world, and is certainly one if not the quirkiest, books are stored and on display in gondolas, canoes, and bathtubs. Books are even turned into furniture and architecture themselves! Books that got ruined by high water, or acqua alta have not been thrown away, but have been used instead to become decorative features, walls or even the steps of a book staircase that gives wonderful views over the canal. It is unbelievable. Especially to a couple of people like ourselves who owned two very nice bookshops. The guy who owns this has turned a problem into an opportunity in a very big way indeed.20190905_131205.jpg20190905_131221.jpgWe sat fascinated by the loop of film which shows the shop actually under water……20190905_131358.jpg20190905_131409_003.jpeg20190905_131747.jpgand as for the full-size gondola in the middle of the shop……Incroyable!ve-lib.jpg20190905_132437.jpgUnless we had seen it we wouldn’t have believed it, but lunch called…..and we resumed our magical footsteps20190905_133120.jpg20190905_150500.jpgand we were so lucky to find what on this day was probably the quietest piazza in the whole of Venice…….we had yet another ‘special’ birthday lunch here at Osteria Boccadero (I was doing so well with this birthday….). 20190905_140630.jpg20190905_140636.jpegIt was really really nice. And my squid ink seafood linguini was delicious…….20190905_141505.jpgSuitably rested and refreshed we only had one more ‘objective’ (good to have objectives) on this day, and that was to see the ‘bridge with no parapet’. This involved a walk along the lagoon side of Venice along a lovely promenade, then cutting back towards the Grand Canal…..20190905_150950.jpg