Friday, 23 July 2010

Mum's gone all operatic!

If you caught my Gallery entry this week, you will know my choice of novel was A Room with a View by E M Forster. Whilst it had particular resonance for me, it was interesting to hear how many of you had also fallen in love with the book and the Merchant Ivory film of 1985.

So to start your day off with a bit o' culture, like, get a load of this excerpt from the film, showing the smooch between Lucy and George (Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands). Two things struck me when watching this now. Firstly, the kiss itself, out of context, doesn't quite do it for me like it used to. Secondly, if I were Lucy I'd have had a quick grope with the Italian carriage driver.

What still sends me all hopelessly soppy however is the music, which kicks in after about two minutes on this clip. It is the aria 'Chi il bel sogno di Doretta' from La Rondine by Puccini, sung by Dame Kiri te Kanawa. If you can, turn the volume up and sing along as I did yesterday (much to the annoyance of neighbouring dogs, as the high notes are extremely painful). I have no idea what the words are so could well have been singing a pizza menu. 

The more famous piece of music associated with the film is 'O mio babbino caro' from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. It's also sung beautifully by Dame Kiri. Hope you like it. My neighbours love it.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Gallery - A Novel Idea - A Room with a View


The theme for "The Gallery" this week is a photograph which represents a treasured book. My chosen novel is A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. The novel tells of Miss Lucy Honeychurch and her chaperone visiting Italy in the early 20th Century with all the repressed sexuality you can squeeze into a tightly-pulled corset. The book became a favourite of mine at around the same time the Merchant Ivory film of the book was released in 1985. I'm convinced a huge part of my love of the film was the soundtrack, particularly the excerpts from Puccini operas. Heavenly.

The view referred to is that of Florence and the River Arno. If you pop over to the blog of Eggs, Cream and Honey you can read the text from the book relating to the disagreement over who is to have the hotel room with a view. There are some gorgeous photos there for the gallery: some delightful views a little closer to home.

My photo of  Florence was taken in 1995 when Dougie and I had a wonderful holiday in Tuscany and Umbria. We had married in 1990 but there still wasn't a baby on the way. This trip was a time to relax, explore and enjoy being together away from the pressures of work. We stayed in a gorgeous little hotel near the village of Artimino, hired a car and went sightseeing every day: Siena, Assisi, Orvieto, Pisa, Lucca and, of course, Firenze. I remember it was quite a climb to reach Piazzale Michelangelo on the other side of the river in order to snap a decent view of the city; Dougie tells me I moaned all the way up the winding path.

We returned from Florence in our little car and sat in the grounds of the hotel, looking out at the Medici villa next to our hotel, in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. I had brought the book with me to re-read and had reached the point where Lucy and George had their famous kiss in the fields around Fiesole. I felt very romantic and emotional.

The holiday continued and was quite perfect. 

I came home refreshed and.......pregnant.

If my boy had been a girl there was a strong chance we may have called her Florence.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Mum's Going to the Dordogne

This weekend I have been mostly washing clothes, putting them on the line then running outside to rescue them from the downpour which has appeared out of the ether. I am ironing, folding and stacking. Woe betide anyone who wears anything this week that's just been laundered and then wafts it in my face on Friday declaring it needs washing again because they can't survive two weeks without it.

Yes, we are off on holiday on Saturday, on a let's-pretend-we're-camping-but-not-really-as-it's-a-static-caravan-with-all-mod-cons fortnight. Our Keycamp break was booked long before we were offered a freebie stay with Eurocamp so I do feel a sense of deja vu. However I am now very well prepared. I know, with some sadness, that I will have no need for high heels and smart frocks but, with a whole SUV available at my disposal and no luggage weight limits to restrict me, I am constantly sneaking in extra unnecessary clothing just in case.  Just in case? Well, just in case we decide after a few days to transfer to a local chateau which has been lovingly restored into a 5 star bijou boutique hotel.....

Oh was I dreaming? Silly me. Where was I? Packing. We've decided to make things as comfortable as possible so, along with our own pillows and duvets, we are even packing mattress protectors. If I'm sleeping for 14 nights on a cheap bed, without the luxury of our astronaut-tested memory foam mattress, I am determined to make it as near to an at-home experience as possible, me being such a Princess/Pea kind of girl. Must also find a cotton throw to artfully drape over the sofa which, if it's anything like the one we sat on in June, was made of a  wipe-clean material: practical but not aesthetically pleasing or comfortable on sunburnt limbs.

Dougie is doing his usual. Organising to an inch of his life. You should see his first aid kit. I know, he's a doctor so it goes with the territory but it's really rather fascinating to see what's in his click n' lock plastic boxes: if I'm struck down with a headache with associated rash, sneezing and alternating diarrhoea and constipation then I'm in safe hands.

Husband is also a "packer". I will plonk a pile of seemingly folded garments in the spare room and they will be re-folded 'properly' and tucked into the tiniest of spaces in the case (for 'case', read: huge zippy tough bag). One year my stack of undies was re-packed that many times to fit into just the right gap that unfortunately it was accidently left out altogether ('was this a ploy?' I asked myself before having to go commando until the shops opened).

He has already sorted the car, checked the tyres, oil and screen wash. Apparently I don't use much screen wash which baffles him as he is a constant squirter...("How on earth do you see through the window, woman?" )It seems to have escaped his notice that I will be driving the car all this week so he will probably have to check it all again before we leave.

Meanwhile I'm reading guide books. I immerse myself in the culture of our destination, well aware that having a sporty husband who will want to leap about on knackered knees playing volleyball and a lazy teenage son who will be unable to surface before midday, will limit our time for exploration. Who needs prehistoric etchings in spooky caves when you can win medals and sugary cocktails playing crazy golf?

I have to remember that this Summer we chose a 'camping' holiday to provide some teenage fun for our son. We have paid up front for 10 days limitless PGL activity (abseiling, archery and zip wires) which was a total waste of money as I know he will just want to find some like-minded fringe-flipping loafers to mooch about with while eyeing up the French totty.

We have also decided, en famille, to go without laptops for the holiday. Both my son and I are glued to them at present and it's driving Dougie insane. So we will do without. On our Eurocamp holiday, after a day or two, the cold turkey approach seemed to work and we adjusted well to a life without Twitter and Facebook. Mindful of the fact that Rory was struck dumb by the absence of a TV in the mobile home when normally on holiday he is happily watching the Italian version of Deal or No Deal within five minutes of sticking the keycard in the door, I have managed to find a space for the portabe DVD player and a stack of comedy DVDs - a good dose of Ross Noble will keep us all cheery.

I'm not going to blog. I will do what I used to do: write my observations in a book, with a pen, then type them up on our return. I will sit on the decking, with a glass of vin rouge, or rose, or blanc and let the boys do their thing. We will re-group at meal times when I will be on salad duties, husband will baste and poke the meat and the coals, and Number One Son will turn up when all the work is done, eager to be fed.

Bring it on!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Answers to "Where's Mum Gone to?"

Thanks for your entries for The Gallery's "Can you see what it is yet?" photo quiz.

The answers:

1. Casa Mila in Barcelona. Often known as La Pedrera (Catalan for 'The Quarry), designed by Antoni Gaudi.

2. The new cupola in the Reichstag in Berlin, designed by Sir Norman Foster.

3. The Eiffel Tower, Paris

4. David, in Florence, by Michelangelo

The winner was Libby who correctly named the three cities and recognised David's pride and joy.

No prizes but do pop over to Libby's blog, D-scribes,  have a read and leave her lots of congratulatory messages - she'll like that.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Gallery - Where's Mum Gone to?

For The Gallery this week the theme is "Can you see what it is yet?". Tara has asked us all to photograph something at an odd angle or focus so that the object looks different. I was tempted to zoom in on household objects so that they looked rude but I'm sure others will have had similar thoughts: I'm hoping for a snigger as I go on my weekly wander round the Gallery's many virtual rooms.

So rather than a priapic peppermill, I give you three landmarks from my travels to see if you can identify them. How terribly civilised!

Oh okay....something to make you smile then. Instead of "Where's Wally?", here's a new game: "Whose Willy?". Tell me who owns this little package. (Do you think there's book potential in this?)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Digitally re:masterpieces - The Bedroom

Something brilliant has begun over at  Is there a Plan B? which I thought was so good, I had to join in.

It all started with a Gallery entry for the theme 'Still Life' where Plan B recreated an old master with some modern touches. Her first two re:masterpieces are excellent and I urge you to look at them before you have a peek at mine. She has set up a link so others can add their own works of art.

I decided for my own effort to work on a photo my son took when we visited the Musee d'Orsay in Paris a couple of years ago.

Bedroom in Arles - Vincent van Gogh - 1888

So, ta-da, my recreation of this masterpiece shows my son Rory's bedroom, tidied rearranged to mirror van Gogh's room. The angle isn't quite right as the room isn't long enough: I didn't think knocking a wall down for a photo opportunity was appropriate.

Bedroom in Holbeach - Trish Burgess - 2010

I did contemplate having a crack at the painting below (Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs - unknown artist) which we saw when we visited The Louvre, but I wasn't quite drunk enough. Now if someone else wants to try....

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Gallery - Holidays - Laughs on Lake Garda


The theme for this week's Gallery is 'Holidays'. Right up my street this one, though fraught with difficulty as to what to choose. In the end I plumped for some photos from our holiday to Lake Garda last summer. This was a perfect break - relaxing, no scary adventures, just lots of sun, book reading, pasta and vino (especially the local plonk, Bardolino).

The words below were from my holiday diary of one evening from a blissful fortnight.

" I suggest to Dougie that we contact our rep and go on a couple of organised tours. He is initially very wary and I have to coax him into trying not to imagine his worst organised-bus-trip nightmare of being herded around with a lot of Brits in socks and sandals. Eventually we plump for a night cruise to Lazise.

The night cruise consists of a trip to see the Bay of Mermaids and then a stop in Lazise for an hour or so. I'm not sure what I expect of a "cruiser": it looks a bit small to me and we are all seated in rows whereas I had somehow imagined myself wafting around on deck. We have two holiday reps to accompany us and the running commentary from Angel (I kid you not) is priceless:

"Hi, my name's Angel and this is Robin, but he doesn't like to be called Robin so call him Rob instead......and our driver, well, oh yes, we're on a boat (giggle), yes, well he's called Luigi......everyone say hello to Luigi....Ooh there's a family of swans.....there's the female swan called a...a...yeah that's the mother and the baby swans...what are they called again?...hmmm yes well the eggs hatched in five weeks and you can see they are still brown, you know they can go white overnight? When we get off at Lazise......what's the proper word for that Luigi?.......oh yes, disembark, yeah well when we get back on again the boat will either be on the left hand side or the right hand side."

Thankfully young Robin (sorry Rob) is a nice chap and goes round the passengers handing out glasses of Asti Spumante (no expense spared). Our son, aged 13, is also given a glass and he makes sure he glugs it down pretty quick in case someone changes their mind. He is in a lovely mood after that.

The town of Lazise is gorgeous, especially at night, and we have an hour or two to explore - the castle, ice creams, the strange entertainment - before we are whizzed back to Bardolino. Not a bad evening at all: Dougie is warming to the idea of someone doing it all for you, and his impressions of Angel keep us all chortling for the rest of the holiday so that's worth the money in itself"