Thursday, 23 June 2011

Mon 20 June - A Dubbing Weekend By The Sea

Friday morning.  Post party bed at 2.30am, up and on it 7am.  Party debris clearing, washing up, putting away, restoring order.  The reason for such a crazy flurry of activity so soon after going to bed?  We're taking Rosemary to the seaside!  

It's been a long time.

Here she is!
But how good did it feel?  Pulling out all the Rosemary goodies, going through the old check list and straight back came that wonderfully familiar, living the hobo, feeling.  And to be returning to Ortona, where we stayed whilst on our travels through Italy last year.  Exactly a year ago to be precise.

Eventually Rosemary was packed, KP was up and we were off.  Oh, the joy of travelling in a veedub.  So much of it is the journey as opposed to simply the destination itself.  Its the whole package.  

So there we were, bouncing along those little empty country lanes, pootling along to Rosemary's rhythm, with more than enough time to smell the roses.  Or rather, to fully take in the changing landscape as it morphed along the valley from mountain community to coastal.  

The mountains of The Majella one side,
the Adriatic sea the other
Leaving the lush green freshness of the Majella behind, we rolled through vin yard after vin yard, past sun drenched fields and wound our way along dusty roads and up through sleepy little hill top top towns, getting ever closer to the sea.  Never, ever will I tire of this landscape.   

The Appenines, looming starkly against the brightest blue sky, still with snow on her peaks and cascading down her ravines through one window, the sea appearing sparkling in the distance through the other.  And not another soul on the roads.  

Why, oh why, I wondered, and not for the first time, are there no other veedubs?  Such a perfectly blissful place, absolutely made for veedub living.  Yet here we are, seemingly all alone.  In all the miles and months of travelling over the last year, only one other have we seen.  An ancient, battered old Westie, but just beautiful.  And we waved and waved. 

The cove, Ripari di Giobbe
Eventually, after only an hour, we were bouncing down and round the bumpy little lane into Ripari di Giobbe, a little camping community in a hidden little cove just north of Ortona.  The sweet little campsite is at the end of the lane and winds it's way right down to the sea.  Only accessible for the smaller campers and tents, it's just perfect.  The facilities are basic, but the location is to die for.  

The little cove maybe one of the very few pebble beaches along the whole sandy Abruzzo coastline, but it's waters are crystal clear, a haven for snorklers, divers and swimmers.  Ortona, with it's ancient little town, steeped in history and wartime tales, is just a short 30 minute walk following the beachside railway track.

Not a bad view to wake up to
And so we spent a blissful three days just swimming, fishing, sleeping and sunning.  We woke up each morning with a dip in the ocean, cycled into Ortona for the morning bread, and we walked in along the beach in the evenings, just for a wander and a drink in the bar overlooking the busy busy harbour and port.  But it was back to Rosemary that first night for a moonlit barbie in our little spot at the top of the cliff.  Heaven.  

Saturday night, however, we pushed the boat out, just a little.  Supper on the terrace  in the Trattoria San Domenico next to the castle looking out over the harbour.  A menĂ¹ prezzo fisso, we had a 6 course meal of the most delectable seafood.  Tiny little samples, but each one more exquisite than the next.  A long slow supper we had, with good wine and enough room at the end, just, to nibble on the delicate little cakes with coffee and a small, but big treat, glass of Amaro.

Eventually, on Sunday afternoon, when the sun on the beach had just became so so hot, we slowly made our way back home with the windows wound down and the radio on, bouncing once more along those little country lanes, big veedub grins on our faces.  

And Rosemary just purred.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Thurs 16 June - Oh, What A Party!

KP's birthday.  Opening presents in bed, surrounded by cards, wrapping paper, and presents.  Books, bottle stopper, ice lolly maker and a machete.  A rather strange combination.

The rest of the day was spent in something of a domestic bliss.  KP sorting the tables, chairs, tidying and lighting, as well as painting a fabulous Kokopelli sign.  Seeing this party as something of a birthday-come-housewarming we thought it was time to start introducing the Kokopelli brand.  And his home-made sign was just perfect.

I, on the other hand, spent the day in the kitchen, gloriously cool as the sun beat down outside.  Four loaves were churned out along the table to oven conveyor belt.  As were various salads of tomatoes, fresh basil & oil, green salad from the garden, rocket & parmesan, plus two newbies for me: farro insalate (recipe link) and panzanella (recipe link).  As soon as the butcher delivered the meats, kebab skewers of beef, sausage, sage and pancetta were pierced together.

I did have a bit of a confidence crisis, part way through knowing how particular the Italians are about their food.  What on earth are they going to make of my Anglo-Italian massacre of such fabulous ingredients?  And there is just so much of it!  How silly will I feel when all they do is pick and I get left with a table full of food.  Such waste!

Once most of the food was done, I wandered up the lane collecting wild flowers to dot around the tables.  The table clothes and candles were put out, wine and glasses were spread around and beer and water were put into a large tub of cold water with icepacks.

People started to arrive, the salads and cold meats were delivered to the tables and the barbecues were fired up.  Like all parties, it was a bit of a slow start but it didn't take long.  As soon as the Sports Bar crowd arrived, boy, did we rock!  They just kept coming and coming!  They dived into the food, took over the barbecue, lit the arrosticini burner and cooked the delectable little skewers of lamb.  KP greeted his guests and I kept refilling the food bowls, taking round meat and cutting more bread.  

My earlier worries about the food being all wrong were completely unfounded.  These people could certainly eat!  And they certainly liked a party.  Just brilliant.  As always, the old and the young, helping themselves to drinks, food and taking turns on the barbecue.  And the presents!  Totally, totally overwhelming.  The house was just full of them.

And then came the speeches, with The Major leading the way, followed by the hip, hip hoorahs and even a perfectly sung English rendition of Happy Birthday!  

Finally, come midnight and with our dinner table, fridge and kitchen looking like a teaming mass of locusts had just swarmed through, the first of our friends started to drift away.  2.30am and we eventually fell into bed.  Happy.

Wed 15 June - Party Prep & A Clash of Interests

We didn't want to, and didn't like breaking our self imposed supermarket embargo, but we did have rather a lot of shopping to do.  Lame excuse I know but we did try and balance it by ordering all the meat and arrosticini from the village butcher, and all the veg and salads were coming from the Fara Filiorum market.  

And I am so so sorry, but our lack of kitchenware meant plastic plates and cutlery to add to the swirling plastic mass in the Pacific that is the size of America (

Fara Filiorum Petri
Conscience aside, we did have a good day.  Never before have I prepped for a party in such a chilled, happy way.  OK we did go to the supermarket, but it was hardly running the Sainsbury's gauntlet, and wandering around the market, picking out the salads, was a joy in itself.  But the highlight of the party shop was stopping to pick up fresh yeast and milk in Roccamonte and finding the door closed.  

Confused, I tried the handle.  It opened to reveal three ashen faced ladies, one holding a poor yowling cat suspended over the shelves trying to push it underneath.  What the... ?

The door was quickly closed behind me with the words "Serpente!" "Serpente!" being uttered with some urgency.  Lucca, Tomas's brother came in next.  So there we were, three crazy ladies, a little boy, me, Lucca and a protesting cat all scrabbling around on the floor of the tiny corner shop trying to find an uninvited snake.   With all that noise, chaos and commotion, I'm sure the snake was long gone.  Which is a shame really, because I'd have loved to have seen the scene if the snake was actually found! 

What a way to start a birthday eve.

And what a way to finish it.  With the most amazing lunar eclipse I have ever seen.  Expecting it at 10.30pm we needed to find the moon and the optimum spot.  The night sky was cloudless, we were in for a real treat.  

But could we find the damned thing?!  Expecting it to be coming up opposite where the sun went down, we needed to somehow get around the Montepiano, a bloody great big hill behind us and right in the way.  First we went one way.  But no.  The hill was too vast.  The moon will not be able to get over that in time.  Then we went the other, but with some urgency in our steps this time.  Time was getting on.  We're young to miss it.  

So we practically ran all the way round to see if it would be peeking out the other side.  Not too pleasant when you've only just finished eating.  So with an aching tummy, a stitch in my side and an increasing fear that KP was about to drag me off-piste into the black wilderness beyond the safely but softly illuminated village lane, I became a reluctant, grumbling, passenger.  Absolutely no way, no how was I going to go into that black, cinghiale and snake filled forest.  There might even be the odd random deranged axe murderer or two.  

I knew what was coming.

"I'll just take this track and see what's round the bend".  Oh God.  Here we go.  But no.  My safety cut off switch was flicked.  Not a chance.  I'll wait here whilst you have a look.  But did he stop at the corner?  Did he hell.  The moon still eluded him.  

Getting rather nervous about being eaten by a troupe of marauding cinghiale, or being chopped up by deranged axe murders, I called.  Nothing.  I called again.  Still nothing.  Self preservation kicked in and I left KP to his fate in the dark woods and scarpered.  I didn't stop running until I got back to the safety of our little house.  And the biggest  moon you have ever seen.  There it was.  Glowing a deep, dusky red over our garden.  A total eclipse.  

KP followed not long after, somewhat disgruntled to have been abandoned by his wingman.  The spectacle in the sky quickly and neatly diverting any clash of, errr, interests.  Just.  

It was beautiful.  And everything was so still and quiet, not even a dog barked.  Such a rare treat that just lasted and lasted all the way through till beyond midnight.  Eventually the Earth's shadow slowly receded from the face of our closest planetary neighbour and she started to shine in all her glory once more.

Not a bad way to start a birthday.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tues 14 June - A 4-Day Festa & A Sore Head

Thursday 9 June.   Night-time, dark and peaceful.  All quiet apart from the crickets, frogs and the occasional owl.   

"Jaqs, come and look at this!"  

 I looked.  And my blood ran cold.  The forest was on fire.

Oh God.   Does anyone know?  Has anyone called the fire brigade?  What's the number?  What's the Italian for fire?   

The fires of Sant' Onofrio, just above the Eremo

But then the fire started to burn suspiciously in the shape of a cross.  Forest fires don't do that.  The binos confirmed it.  Yep, we have a massive cross burning on top of the hill.

8am the next morning, it started with a bang.  And then another.  And another, and another.  Ear splitting booms echoing round the valley and bouncing off the mountains.  Then came the fireworks and firecrackers.  We were under attack.  Mortar fire!

But no.  It was Festa time!  Four days of full on partying had begun.  Time to celebrate the patronali festivities in honor of Sant' Onofrio and Sant' Anthonio (The Patron Saints of Serramonacesca).   The cross on the hill, the fires of Sant' Onofrio, shone bright red and the brass band could be heard playing in the village.  This is going to be fun!

Max & Toto
But how on earth do they do it?!  It really was four full days of party, party, party.  The village just shut down.  A Serramonacesca bank holiday.  The streets outside the two bars and around the piazza were lined with tables and benches and were full of people, no matter what time of day, it was always full.  It was very exciting, such a buzz!  

Festa time in the village
Friday night and it all came alive.  And Saturday night.  So many people packing out the streets.  Bands in the piazza, pizza wagons, arrosticini (wiki Arrosticini), hamburgers, brightly lit stalls selling all sorts of gaudy, sparkly goodies.  These people knew how to party.  

So lucky we are to have fallen in with such a fantastic crowd.  Our early fears of coming out here, the expats, the holiday homers, driving up the property prices, muscling in, just hasn't happened.  The language problem?  Not a problem.  Communication is so much more than just words.  

Sunday night we gave it a miss.  Totally pooped.   Far too many late nights, too much cycling or walking in and out of the village every day (the no car pledge for trips under 5km in full swing now), plus a two hour punishing Sunday morning bike around the hills had taken it's toll.  Either that or we're just getting old and four days of festa is just too much?!

...and I thought this was bad enough
Whatever.  But, boy, did we make up for it on Monday!  The final night, and it was going to be good.  What a brilliant time.  Once again, everyone in together, shoving up, squashing along the benches.  The drinks were flowing, food was ordered, shared, everyone diving in.  Chat, banter, laughter.  New friends, old friends, the old and the young.  This is absolutely brilliant!

And the burning lady!  What utter madness!  What the hell was that all about?!  A figure dressed as a lady in traditional costume complete with a dolls head on top, was dancing around the piazza.  

With fireworks attached to her head. 

Stark.  Raving.  Bonkers
Yep, she really did.  And they weren't small either.  The more she spun, the bigger they got, or the bigger they got the more she spun.  Round and round, her head looking like an Apollo launch capsule about to rocket through the stratosphere.   These people really are totally nuts.  But we love it!

A bit too much.  The lips going numb was the first sign of things to come.  But, hey, this is good!  The drinks kept flowing and we had the best night ever.  The fireworks at midnight were a brilliant finale.  Launched from the hill opposite, they were fantastic.  One after the other, absolutely superb.  

What a finale!

Eventually we starting making our weary, wobbly way back up the hill to Garifoli.  Thankfully picked up by Graham and Sharon before the start of the evil climb.  At least I think it was them.  Things did get a little blurry and hazy......

Tuesday was spent on the sofa.  All.  Day.  Long

Ahhhhhh festa time.  Roll on the next one.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Fri 10 June - A Market Raid & An Evolving Brand

Fara Filiorum Petri

Fara Filiorum Petri.  (Location.)  What a fabulous market.  And such a  small but vibrant little village.  So typical of so much that has stunned us around every little corner of Abruzzo that we turn.  Why is it that so few people know about Abruzzo?  How has this region of Italy been missed by the big travel writers?  

There is so much history here, so many practices and traditions that have been unchanged for hundreds of years.  Unspoilt, unmanicured, untainted, untamed.  There are some wonderful blogs coming out of the region (Italy tutto - Abruzzo blogs) and a handful of guide books, but that's about it.  Very occasionally Abruzzo will feature in one of the Sunday broadsheets, but only rarely and often missing the heart of the beautifully raw simplicity of what is here.  

Even the biggies like The Rough Guide and Lonely Planet completely miss the point.  Their chapters are so brief that you wonder if the travel writers have actually been here.  Maybe I'm doing them an injustice?  Or maybe to be able to find and feel the beating heart of Abruzzo you need to fully immerse yourself into the daily rhythms of Abruzzese life?  We have only been here for two and a half months and we know so little, but we also know that we are only scratching the surface, there is so much more yet to be discovered and revealed.

Just a tiny section of the market
Fara Filiorum market was one such gem.  Spotted as we cycled past one day a couple of weeks ago, it was a definite must to return to.  It was all the ladies with their bulging shopping baskets walking slowly away from the market, and the tiny trucks overflowing with chickens that did it.  

But nothing could have prepared us for the abundance of stalls that we stumbled across. It wound itself all the way up through the village, round and round the stone walled streets and up and up to the tiny little piazza with the church at the top.

Again we asked ourselves:  Why?  Why does this not feature in the guide books?  Why has nobody told us about it?  But here it is, and here we are and, boy, did we make the most of it!  

Not a bad way to do your weekly shop
We filled our bags with new potatoes freshly dug out of the ground, big fat carrots, strings of onions, a huge bunch of beautifully fresh celery and the reddest of red tomatoes with such a pungent sweet aroma, but only after the stall holder had insisted we try one first. 

We raided the grow your own stall of tomato, cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower and chilli plants to put in our newly dug veggie plots.  

We also came away with a  pot of lavender and another of basil to continue filling my herb garden.  Oh, and I got a lasagne tin (€6!) to replace the billy can that KP is constantly moaning and groaning about every single time he washes up (maybe I should be glad for small mercies?).  Actually, I've grown rather attached to the billy can, so it stays put, the new one will simply enhance my rather ramshackle pot and pan collection.

Of course we treated ourselves to a coffee in the piazza before making our way home.  Not a bad way to do your weekly shop.

And what a treat to get home and see the difference that is rapidly being made to our emerging shower block and barn.  The raw walls of the showers, toilets and changing areas are now complete, but most exciting of all, and what is making the big transformation, is the cladding of the roof.  With the beams left revealed it's going to look stunning.  Such a great space.  

In fact this week has been all about reliving and refreshing the Kokopelli vision.  I think we have got so immersed in our daily lives, the development of the house and garden and learning so much about so many things that  we've just left Max to get on with the barns.  

But this week we have had many visitors and more new friends dropping by.  To show people around and talk through our vision is a treat indeed.  To see their excitement and enthusiasm matching ours,  and to feed on the thoughts and ideas coming out of  fresh eyes, helps to keep us on track and keep our excitement at what we are creating bubbling away under the surface.  

The Kokopelli brand, made real in the gifts that we have been making this week of our wild cherry jam, is coming alive.  We are now being flooded with so many ideas of how the brand can develop and grow that our big challenge will be keeping it small and keeping it simple.  

Pick just a few, but do them well.  Simple, maybe, but with full attention to detail and never forgetting the thousand little smiles.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mon 6 June - d'Artagnon & A Bunch of Cherries

Sometimes it's not a bad thing to give yourself a bit of a nudge out of the comfort zone.  Making the few changes that we have have thrown up a few unexpected benefits.  

The supermarket ban has taken us to exploring other places, people, words and phrases.  Saturday morning, however, wasn't a brilliant start.  We spent the morning in Guardiagrele fumbling through my badly translated shopping list with various long suffering shop keepers and I do admit to thinking this is actually going to be harder than I thought.  The shops that we visited were fairly poorly supplied with anything other than a few of the usual peppers, tomatoes and courgettes.  Just not the same selection as the supermarket and certainly not as easy as browsing the shelves to find what you want.  Ho hum, I consoled myself, it's going to take time.  This is all part of the process, working out what's where, what's what and the best places to go.

But Guardiagrele did have the best machete shop in the whole of Abruzzo.  A little hardware shop towards the piazza at the upper end of the main street.  A beautiful selection of knives all lined up in the window.  

The 4th Muskateer caused a few sideways glances from passers by as he danced around the shop like d'Artagnon, swooshing the blades at imaginary bracken, brambles and branches, or possibly, and more likely, slaying his attackers as they came for him, one after the other.  

Finally, after he'd beaten a path through the undergrowth (or was triumphant in his battle) a rather mean looking blade was selected and packed away for his birthday next week.

Shopping done, with a modicum of success, we stopped for coffee and ice cream in a little piazza by the church with all it's magnificent bells.  This beats supermarket shopping any day.

Elder flower
Sunday, too, was another day of exploring new options with a mixture of success and disappointment.  Having seen an abundance of white umbrella flowers lining the paths of our nature ramblings I thought the area was rich elderflower.  

So, spurred on by various recipes for elderflower cordial, champagne and ice-cream we took off for the hills with our foraging kit, Tina and a newly shorn Fausto the dog joining us too.

We took the path from Garifoli up onto the montepiano and my heart sunk to see the elder flowers had all turned to bundles of tiny green berries.  Not elder at all.  Elder flowers all the way through to July.  Dogwood.  An easy mistake, apparently, differentiated by it's smooth leaves as compared to the serrated edges of elder.

Curry plant
But we did find a number of cherries trees absolutely dripping with ripe fruit.  And surprised Tina with the mass of curry plants that absolutely cover the top of the montepiano, filling the air with it's sweet spicy smell, reminiscent of Indian takeaways.  A small cutting, I have to confess, was secreted into my rucksack along with the little sprig of honeysuckle cut earlier.

By Monday I was getting more into the swing of shopping local and KP's rested groin was ready to take to his bike once more.  So up the hill to my favourite little alimentary lady in Roccamontipiano .  Tiny little shop, a bit hit and miss on the veggies displayed outside but once in through the beads over the door, you're in a real Aladdin's cave of goodies.   The kind always smiling lady was ever so patient and helpful over my shopping list and guided me through my clumsy bread flour and jam sugar translations.  And she even had fresh yeast in the fridge! Can you believe it?!  I haven't seen fresh yeast in many many years.  What a joy.  This is what it's all about.  

Shopping done we zoomed down the hill and back up the other killer side into Garifoli and straight into bread making mode.  It's been a long time since I was kneading bread on a kitchen table instead of throwing a few ingredients into a bread machine before running out the door.  And it felt good.  10 minutes of kneading later and the bread was left to prove in the sun under a tea towel in the garden.  And, boy, did it prove!  Two hours later and I was looking in awe at the massive piece of dough absolutely filling the bowl in front of me.  Another quick knead and in the oven it went.  

In it went for 35 minutes as we got our cherry picking gear together.  The warm heady bread smell coming from the oven filled the house.  

Of course we couldn't wait for it to cool and two slices were taken from the loaf barely before it had gone from oven to table.  So there we were, wandering up the hill to pick cherries eating warm bread with melted butter dripping down our chins.

Doesn't get much better than this.

An amazing 3 kilos of cherries of cherries were picked, pitted, bubbled in the pan and potted into jars before bed time.

A good day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Fri 3 June - The Money-Less Man Gets A Groin Strain

Friday, and an early start for us. 6.15am and we were all piled in the car and heading off over to Rome to deliver Sian and Jess to the airport.  A long way, taking us all the way from the east coast of Italy over to the west (Pescara airport* is far easier) but it's two hours of the most spectacular scenery.  Mountains, wilderness and tumble down villages.  Abruzzo, never fails to take your breath away.  Every time.

Safely handed over to Easy Jet, we made our way back home over the Apennine ridge and wound our way back up to Garifoli, our little   house on the hill, which seemed very quiet indeed.

As Day 1 (or so I thought) of us being the Eco-Warriors of Garifoli, KP, still fancying himself as the next Money-less man, started digging veggie patch number two.  Hmmm I thought, as I watched him from my restoring order scurryings around the house, that's my veggie patch, my project, my space, he'd better get those edges straight.  My karma can be severely upset by a veggie patch with wonky edges.  It needs to be all pretty and neat and all in a row.  

I continued in the house, a little anxious as to the destruction being wielded by the Money-less Man outside, and had a bit of a dilemma to deal with.  My washing machine.  Not a brilliant way to start our eco-warrior existence, piling all the sheets and towels in, one load after another.  All that water, all that electricity.  I could do it by hand.  I did that for two months last year whilst travelling in Rosemary.  But it took all morning.  And even longer when there were sheets and towels to do.  Rinsing, wringing and drying is a nightmare.  Oh, what to do?

I consoled myself with the compromise that if I can find an old fashioned mangle, then I might, just might, hand wash some of the time (apart from sheets, towels, jeans,), and I will never, ever, get a tumble drier.  

Conscience cleared (sort of) I eventually braved the chaos in the garden.  But it was brilliant!  OK, the order of digging may have been somewhat haphazard (quite why he couldn't dig in straight lines, I had no idea), but the end result was a perfectly aligned veggie patch.  Not to be left out, I marked out a third plot (terrified, after the fuss i made, not to get it absolutely perfect) and set too with spade and wheel barrow.  Our lawn, as it once was, being beautifully transformed into something far more useful.  Problem is, we haven't got a clue what to plant!

As we started to fade, along with the afternoon, tools were downed and KP started to get ready for football.  Yes, really.  He hasn't played in over 15 years.  He hasn't got any football boots.  What is he thinking?!  A recipe for disaster.  Ho hum.  Boys.  He just couldn't resist the temptation of a night of 5-a-side in the village with the Serrese boys (Serrese FB page).

In the village that is only two kilometres away.  So why is he hunting around for car keys? What about our pact?  No car for journeys less than 5km?  Oh, that starts on Monday, he says.  Hmmmm.  What with my washing machine dilemma and KP's "starts on Monday" qualification we hadn't made a brilliant start.  Still, it can only get better.

So I waved him off in his cobbled together football kit and no boots with a "bye honey, don't forget to stretch" parting ditty.

Two hours later and he was on the sofa with an icepack firmly clamped to his groin.  The victim of taking a brave swing for the ball, and missing.  Soft tissues of the groin area going beyond the point of no return.  Didn't think to stretch that bit he said.

Oh dear.  I think the cycling instead of car rule really is going to have to wait till Monday.

*Pescara Airport, 35 mins from Kokopelli

Monday, 6 June 2011

Sun 5 June - The Money-Less Man & A Little Bit of Tobacco

With each passing day KP has been getting more and more excited until he has almost reached feverish peak.  I, too, caught in the wake of his unadulterated enthusiasm, became quietly optimistic and enthused.  I think he finally gets it.  And the source of such animated passion?

A fascinating book from Mark Boyle called The Money-less Man - A Year of Freeconomic Living (The Money-less Man).  Absolutely brilliant.  A very fresh, a very radical, a very witty and different way of looking at and living in our world.  

It also looks at and questions our lives and the way we are all caught up on the hedonic treadmill, and its not making us happy.  

The Hedonic Treadmill:  

We work long hours to buy those things that give us a burst of pleasure - a new phone, a new car, but the pleasure doesn't last.  To get another pleasure fix, another phone, another car, we must work more long hours to earn more money.  We have our pleasure fixes, we have our acquisitions.  But we have no time or energy to enjoy them.  Our relationships get strained, we move on, we still keep searching, keep buying, keep getting that fix.  

There is an alternative.  There is another way.  

The Positive Psychologists have discovered that the happiest people are those who have raised their baseline in ways that didn't need repeated doses of new acquisitions.  The happiest people had four factors in common:  strong social connections, meaning in their work, they were able to work with, and use, what they considered their strongest talents, and they had some sense of a higher purpose.  

Simple.  I could see us hovering on the cusp of a return to the old values.  I don't mean being quite as far out and revolutionary as Boyle, who spent a year living without money (not a single penny passed through his hands), but it was certainly time to stop procrastinating and start practising what we preached.


Stage 1

Food waste
(A)  Keep it local - keep out of those damned supermarkets, the source of many woes.  A key player in taking us away from small scale local production and supply, seasonal produce, buying what we need rather than what we're told (tricked) that we need.  These giant corporates have driven us to accepting and fueling, intensive and very dangerously destructive, farming practices.  E-coli, case in point.  
We buy things we don't need, we cause massive waste and food piles by demanding the perfect shape and size, and we don't give a second thought to the season, or the miles it's travelled, or the labour and conditions in some far off country where the food has been produced.

This way?
Or this way?
We don't need the supermarkets.  So get rid.  I've done it before, can do it again.  Bit harder this time though.  In a foreign country.  In a place where the shop keeper behind the counter fulfils your products for you.

I can see some amusing times coming on as I try to use my best, but very bad, Italian, in reading out my shopping list.  Things like rubber gloves, washing powder and toilet cleaner oddly enough don't seem to appear in my phrase book.  And where on earth do you find ant powder?  But I won't let it put me off.

(B)  No more using the car for journeys less than 5km.  We're fit, we're cyclists, so why do it?  No brainer.  Easy.

(C)  No more tea bags.  Should also be no more coffee too, but that would be a step too far, too soon.  I am only human you know, and I do rather like my coffee.  Maybe in time, but not yet.  The goals must be achievable.  

Tea is far more simple, we drink a lot of it but the means of making it are in abundance all around us.  Nettles and mint.  Why add to all the thousands of horrendous food miles involved in the production of this everyday commodity when all we need do is go out into the garden:

Common garden mint
Mint or nettle tea:  pick a few leaves, bruise them and infuse them for 5 minutes in hot water, add a little honey or sugar and there you have it. Simple and delicious.

Our musings along the line of growing and drying leaves did also take us dangerously down the road of considering a little tobacco growing cottage industry, but I'm not sure we really ought to go there.  One to be parked me thinks.

(D)  Food for free is all around us.  Learn about it, seek it out, write notes, find recipes.  Forage.  Time consuming initially, maybe.  But do it.  

So there you have it.

Stage 1 starts on Monday.

Stages 2 and 3, involving compost toilets, chickens, rabbits and bartering to follow.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Thurs 2 June - Sunshine, Rain & A Bundle of Energy

And so our week continued, a week dominated by a little bundle of champagne fireworks.  So much noise, fun and energy wrapped up in one tiny two year old body.  Oh, to be able to have such unadulterated expression of emotion

We went to the beach with squeals of delight as Sian took her into the sea, we played in the beach playground and we ate ice cream.  All with joyous abandon.  The beauty of being a child.  Life is just one big exciting playground and I'm going to let the whole world know!  

And then it rained.  On Wednesday.   All day long.  And Thursday.  All.  Day.  Long.   Actually, although sunshine would have been lovely, we still had a good time.  It just meant that rather than enjoying what nature has provided we made use of what man has provided.  We went to a shopping mall.  Normally avoided like the plague, but it was full of bright lights and sparkles, shop displays and climbable benches, long, wide malls perfect for running along and being chased along, and children's ride on play toys.  All of which provided much fun and amusement.

A great way to spend a wet afternoon with a two year old.  A good old mooch around we had with the chance to find a few presents home by Sian.  Coffee and cake were eaten and enjoyed whilst we were oblivious to the world outside.  Surely it must have stopped raining by now?  But, no.  When we wandered out a few hours later it was pouring buckets.  There was standing water all over the road and not a single teeny weeny bit of blue sky to offer hope anywhere.

This cannot last we thought.  It's June.  Summer.  Yes, yes, I know.  The garden needs it, blah, blah.  But we didn't.  So we battened down the hatches, had supper and went to bed.  Not before, however, checking all the websites for tomorrow's weather and picking the one we liked the best.  Sunshine, with a few scattered showers.  That sounds good.  We can cope with that.

But we clearly picked the wrong one.  The only part that was right was the showers bit.  No sun, and certainly not scattered.  Just one long shower that lasted most of the day.  So we went visiting.

Firstly down to see Natasha and Roberto, who were clearly delighted to have a little one running around and they spoilt her rotten with fun and games, cake and chocolate.   Next on the list came Ian and Carole, who provided the entertainment with their rabbits and chickens.

Finally, at long last, the sun returned.  The evening was very pleasant indeed and a very sharp contrast to the wet, dull day.  The earth warmed and dried in no time at all.  We played in the hammock, we played on the tractor and little Jess even "helped" me in restoring my trunk.

A lovely way to end a rather damp and grey day.