Saturday, 30 January 2016

End of an era

The upside of an 'end of an era' moment is the frisson of wondering what the next era will wheel in.

We completed the sale on our condo in Naples on 28th January so for the first time in seventeen plus years we have just the one home.  It already feels rather odd, as if I have forgotten something or lost something; not in a major way, just that niggly feeling you get in the corner of your brain which keeps saying something indefinable has slid out of reach.

The house I was quite literally born in. No UPVC porch seventy years ago!
Home for me is really where your 'birth' roots are if you are lucky to stay there long enough.  I have always felt that I am a Brummy and my heart is decidedly in the  Birmingham of my childhood.  If it (and my mom and dad and others) were all still there I would be back there in a nano-second.

My next home age 11 to 19.  Not how it looked when my mom had it; it always had a lovely front garden

I was uprooted all of about five miles when I was eleven and the next house was always my 'mom and dad's house' in my head.  Five miles might as well have been another planet as far as an eleven year old is concerned.  I suspect this began my 'gypsy' lifestyle with houses.  The roots were already damaged.

At nineteen I married and moved into a flat (no photo), still in Birmingham but again a few miles from my mom's house.  

No outside photo f the second flat.  This was our junk shop furniture we had re-covered.  Note the record player and fireplace very sixties.
A couple of years later we moved on to a better flat and, again, in another part of Birmingham.  By twenty-four my first husband and I had moved to our first house in Lakenheath in Suffolk. (no photo)  I was now truly severing all connections with any residual concept of home that I had remaining.

By the time I was thirty and had my first baby I was living in another part of the country and had fetched up in Royton (no photo) in Lancashire.  I was more and more isolated from that first ideal of home - the loss of friends you had grown up with and family all around you was now firmly established.  I am sure some people don't feel this privation and others will never settle themselves to it.  All I can say is that I reached an 'acceptance' of it before I was twelve, so every move after that seemed to matter less and less, the loss had already happened.

watching my 'next home being built

 By the time my son was nearing school age we moved again; this time to an area with a good school.  This was the only other house I spent a lot of years in and I made many, many memories of life there with my children.  It was certainly bought as the forever house and therefore the future home for us all.

Life often takes turns we don't plan on and my husband and I divorced and the children grew up and I eventually moved on to another life with Ken.  This began in his home and then we bought our first house together; and so our collection of houses began with our giving up the two we already had.

our lovely first house together

After we were married we bought a lovely house together and settled down to a normal future of work and the hope of retiring early.  Then we went on holiday!  In 1999 we did the classic thing - we went on holiday to Florida and bought a house while we were there; three bedrooms, swimming pool, the works.

Queens Park home

For a few years we worked in the UK and escaped to Naples as often as we could.  My spunky eighty-plus my mother often came with us... and all was well.  Very soon we decided we wanted more of the Florida life so we retired early and downsized our UK home.  Indeed the sale of our big house and the purchase of the tiny bungalow all happened courtesy of the internet - leaving us actually without a home in the UK for a couple of months while we soaked up the Florida sunshine.

our tiny but perfectly formed bungalow
Eventually the upkeep of a single family home in Naples all year became a chore so we sold it and bought a 'lock and leave' sort of house.

The Shores

By now my mother had stopped coming to Naples with us so we decided to sell up yet again.  We thought we would find a slightly larger home in the UK as we would be spending more time there and also buy somewhere in Europe.  this would be an easier commute for us all.

In the UK we bought a wreck of a house a few doors from our bungalow which we then completely refurbished.  Never let me get started on that story unless you have a few hours of you life to donate.  Never again!  The sales picture here is from further down the line when we sold it on

for sale

After a protracted search in Spain we ended up buying a lovely farmhouse and nine acres in France!  Most people's dream home.

leaving Les Roches
I never 'settled' there.  I loved the house and land and trees(!) to smithereens but I hated being so alien.  My French is very, very basic and though I am used to be isolated it felt intensified when I was surrounded by a world I couldn't even understand aurally. 

In the UK we had also found a better-fit house - we realised how much we both needed to return to a detached home - our own fiefdom - and with enough room to cover our needs without too much compromise.  So we bought our current home.

 In Naples, around the same time, we found the condo we have just sold

These addresses have been the story of our lives now for more than ten years. Roughly six months of the year spent in each of them.

By now I have enough sense to know 'you can never go home'.  It no longer exists.

Ken and I have been together for almost twenty-three years and have run through eleven homes together here, America and France.  I think it is time to try and make a proper home for us both here in Bury.  

So the new era begins.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

What is this white stuff?

Sunday 17 January:  
Bit of a visual shock to the system this morning when we got up:

poor old birds in this weather

We have a ton of bird feeders around our garden for the two blackbirds and the occasional robin!  We live on a relatively new estate (ten years plus?) so there are no mature trees, hence very few birds visit us, but I keep trying.  The eight assorted cats that do visit the garden (aka litter tray) may also be off-putting.  As someone who has had a plethora of cats as pets in my time consider my hands held up.  What goes around, comes around.

from my chair

This is my view from my work chair in the Hive.  The jasmine looked really pretty all fluffed up.

Yes, I am sort of excited as it is our first experience of snow (excluding a ski holiday) that we have had in many years.  Not having to schlep out in it to go to and from work makes it even more attractive.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Happy 2016

I know it is banal to say it but ..... where do the years go?  Can not believe we are in the twenties never mind sixteen.  There are already whole rafts of people who never 'lived' in the 1900s and somethings......scary stuff.

Whatever the number I hope you and all you care about have a wonderful year ahead.  Health and happiness being the only two things you need, I wish you those in bucketfuls.

I left you in November so there is the whole of December to go at and it was a heck of a busy month.

Just before that though, on 29 November, we signed a contract on the sale of our condo in Naples.  The exchange will take place 29th January.  So, after fifteen years of a split life between here and the sunshine (six months here and six months there) we will stop our gypsy life and settle down in the UK again.  I am doing cartwheels of happiness at the prospect of living here full-time.  Ken is dragging his feet a little but agrees it is the time to do it.

not quite the same view from our bury sitting room window

Co-incidentally and, hopefully, not an omen, also on the 29th two of our fence panels blew down.  This was the second time we had lost some fencing and we have known for a while the posts were pretty rotten at ground level so we had to bite the bullet and arrange to get it all replaced.  It is odd how vulnerable you feel when a chunk of a fence disappears.

By the time we were into the first week of December we were in the throes of having a complete seventeen panel fence replaced, two wardrobes in our main bedroom fitted (plus three chests of drawers made), a greenhouse removed followed by a workroom built in its place and then the now vacated workroom turned back to a guest room (including buying a new bed) before the 25th.

As you can imagine there were a few hiccups along the way but by now it is pretty much sorted - still some tweaking here and there.

Throw in a couple of doctor visits, lunches with chums, decorating rooms for Christmas including buying a seven foot tree and a day with workmen littered hither and yon and a power outage of a few hours and it was not quite a stress-free month!   Oooooh I almost forgot eight trips to Ikea for this and that as we went along - I sooooo love Ikea things and sooooooo hate Ikea.  We have discovered a slight improvement on doing it (so we don't stay home and stick pins in our eyes instead) we now go in the evening after about six and get the place pretty much to ourselves.

We had a really terrific all round traditional Christmas with my daughter and her husband staying with us for a few days - lots of eating and flopping around.  Their first baby is due in May so it was an extra special Christmas for us all.

We declined 'a bit of a do' for New Year's Eve (we are both the epitome of party poopers) and welcomed in the New Year with each other and thoughts of friends and family around the world.

I'll share some photos of the month as we bowled along to give you a flavour of how we said goodbye to 2015.

tree is up and decorations going in

starters are ready

The Hive is framed

my commute to work

a room full of sunshine

Monday, 23 November 2015

Birthday to remember.

November is my birthday month and this one celebrated my seventh decade - I'll leave you to do the maths.  It was one to remember not only because I had a lovely day but because it was immersed in such a chaotic month.

Even Google remembered which was kind of them, if just a little spooky....

Before starting this I dipped back into my last post written on 3rd November - it is now now the 18th and just about everything said previously is being rapidly undone....  the stated 'just one Ikea trip' has turned into four with a fifth currently looming,  I boasted the garden was put to bed and the gardener bade farewell until the spring - he is due here in about ten minutes to see if he can do a stack of reconstructing for me before the weather sets in.  I was relieved that I had finished sorting rooms and cupboards and they had all been tidied - we will soon be emptying wardrobes completely and also my relocating my work room.  So much for the calm and order I thought we'd found.

It has been a scabby month so far for a series of breakdowns....  It began with us out and about on a wet and windy day and returning to our car discovered we had a flat tyre - that was fun.  The two heaters in the conservatory died on the same day!!  That was a Ken fix-it job but one needed doing again shortly afterwards and again and again so clearly not 'right'.  The day following my birthday with my daughter and husband still visiting we got up to a cold house and no hot water.  The boiler was on the fritz.  It was condemned by the Corgi engineer that day, but being Friday couldn't go to  'tribunal' until Monday.  On Monday we were promised a Baxi engineer for the Wednesday.  He arrived and duly fixed the unfixable boiler (!) So Friday to Wednesday without the comforts of 2015 was an experience.  Talk about back to the fifties - the 'good old days' weren't actually that good.  Heaven knows what today's generation would make of it. We are currently limping along with a fault in the house electrics somewhere which trips the fuse a couple or more times a day.

Then there were all the proposed ideas about refurbs that did and didn't happen as fast as you can say that phrase.  One minute we were having wardrobes in two rooms done, then none, then one room - that's due before the 30th.  The garden was a re-design now its not until the Spring.  Another conservatory was being built and now it isn't, blinds were being added to our present conservatory - guess what - they aren't.  We are having a workroom added to the side of the house though for my dollhousing hobby and when I get fed up with it, it will make a great storage/work area.  Hoping that will start soon.

We have trailed to and from Ikea four times - both of us hate it with a passion - to buy and return a series of 'decisions' that work and don't work for various reasons.  Bless Ken, my savior, who did the last returns on his own.

Hating it as I do I must say that Ikea has netted me a million plants for around the house. 

 Hippeastrum that flowered before I could blink at just three pounds I wish I had bought a ton of them.  

 a large and a small orchid - the small one being the expensive one.   

and three lovely small poinsettias in a box which I hope to keep going until Christmas but suspect I will be buying again before then. 

 The Christmas cactus has also done its thing so I was certainly ahead of myself. 

 This is a monster.

I squeezed in just one more but have a zillion more on my hit list

Taking a quick flit through my diary - anything of note? - not really -  just the usual very nice round of seeing friends, meals, movies (Spectre done and Lady in the Van to go).  

There was one gentle day - my birthday.  We met S & S at The Fleece, Ripponden for a late lunch - them coming from Edinburgh and us travelling from Bury meant we were just about a drink and starter ahead of them when they arrived ....  I was starving and so could claim birthday rights.  The food and company was all I could ask for followed by a pootle home and an evening's nattering.   They stayed another couple of days catching up with us and others.  It is always lovely to see them even if our cold house wasn't the best of welcomes.

So, here I am at the 18th November and beginning to think about Christmas........ blame it on the shops and TV and all the jobs we are being promised will be done by then!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Back a week

This is primarily a reminder for folk who look out for me at the end of the month that I am now writing as and when the mood takes me; so October has already been done in bits and pieces if you want to flit back through.

If you want to see photos of our leaving Naples they are here for a while:  Leaving 257

........  but, as I am here.........

We have been English now for a week and it has been just lovely.  We are experiencing totally cliché autumn weather - blue skies, wet underfoot and a distinct nip in the air.  Even a hint of November fogs are beginning to roll in.

We arrived home in the early hours of last Monday (26th Oct) after a pretty miserable flight.  Just as we were taxiing for take-off (spot on time) we turned off the runway and headed back to the airport.  Someone had been taken ill (had a fit) on our flight and needed to be taken off the plane.  Handy hint don't get taken ill - took nearly half an hour to get back in and for an air bridge to be connected to the plane.  The passenger and his companion were 'offloaded' but then their four bags had to be found!  We were on the tarmac from boarding to eventual take off for three hours.  Added to an eight-hour overnighter this was certainly no fun at all.  As the cabin crew said 'better now than a diversion in flight'.  Mind you we do fly over my son's home in St John's (NL) so that would have done us nicely.

The minimal Thomas Cook service was repeated on our trip back.  We will try never to fly with them again, especially long haul.

We did still make it back to the house in time for my grocery delivery from Tesco (ordered in Naples).  Deep joy, grocery delivered plus English food.... not to mention the convenience of even being able to order other stuff from their store such as a slow cooker.

I had remembered that my English one was looking a bit dog-eared and could do with replacing.  What I hadn't remembered, thanks to shifting homes every five minutes, was that I had already done that before leaving for the USA.

Never mind - just a simple return five minutes down the road and any way I wanted to pick up the clothes I had ordered (also from Naples)  for Click and Collect.  Don't you love civilisation.

Our little one person (get to know her) cleaner arrived the next day to kick-start our future routines.  A very different feel to the barrage of different-every-time cleaners (as many as four) who arrive in Naples to do our cleaning.  By the time T arrived we had also managed to unpack our four huge cases plus two small ones and tuck everything hither and yon.

Following lunch out, we did a bit of  local shop the next day for this and that which included potted plants - a rarity in my homes for fifteen years as they have to be binned every few months when we shift homes.  Not any more - I can have what I want.... even an orchid!  I also picked up plants and bulbs for winter pots; another experience I have done without for many years.

We squeezed in a quick catch up with friends before embarking on this lot.

I spent the next couple of days moving stuff from A to B to C which entailed moving the stuff that moved out of those letters on to D and E and F.  I think we are now all sorted - for a while any way.

By Friday we were trawling around Ikea checking out this and that for the great updating of the house which is about to take place.  It took us seven hours and a lot of money spent and a full car only to realise we hadn't actually solved any of the queries we had arrived with.... and, of course, we now need to return things!

On Sunday 1st November we had a great day out at Dunham Massey.  If you are local and can get there, go and visit their war exhibition it is absolutely the very best piece of such work that I have seen.  The house was used for injured troops and housed the Stamford Military Hospital.

on the ward © The University of Manchester

After two exhilarating, emotional and unforgettable years, the Stamford Hospital will close its doors for the final time on Wednesday 11 November.
It's your final chance to visit and hear the stories of the soldiers who stayed here and the nurses who treated them, brought to life by actors, objects and original archive material.

We had a lovely lunch, met up with my best friend and walked around the gardens soaking up the afternoon sun and autumn colours and smells.  (more pictures here for a while: Dunham Massey)

Yesterday (2nd) my gardener paid his last visit for the season and emptied all my pots ready for me to plant up some winter colour.  It is lovely having someone do the heavy work for you.  

So here I am fully ensconced in the UK as autumn works its way towards winter....

Sunday, 25 October 2015

It's been a funny old day, Granville....

Our last day as residents in Naples was a mish-mash of plans made, altered and abandoned.

We were up at eight ready to crack on with laundering the sheets we'd slept in, make up the bed with the posh set, dispose of any outstanding give-aways, say our goodbyes and dress the condo ready for viewing.  Our cunning plan was to leave around noon if we could be ready in time, have lunch at Bone Fish, deliver condo keys to realtor, get Ken an ice cream at Regina's and then bowl on up to an airport hotel in Orlando for a relaxing overnighter.

First addition to our schedule was the possibility of someone calling in for some sewing machine 'clobber' sometime between 8.30 and 10.30 am.  That, somehow, got messed up and I was standing outside our garage handing them to a drive-by collection just as we were leaving.

Before that I had said goodbye to our neighbours below us which was a bit teary.  I had already had a sniffle when the car was sold the day before... Tears for a car for heaven's sake.  When we had completed our chores and the condo was pristine I took my usual few minutes alone in a home before leaving it for a final farewell walk round before locking the door for the last time.  Oddly, this was just fine, no moist eyes in sight.  It felt like our usual end of season departure and that was OK.

So, our day had begun well with us ready to leave about half ten instead of noon... Lunch was now brunch with thirty minutes to kill until Bone Fish opened.  We decided to drop off the keys with our realtor at the end of Fifth first to kill a couple of minutes.  We had forgotten it was the day of the Blue Crab Festival.  It is a big deal in Naples and draws thousand from here, there and everywhere so streets are closed off, traffic diverted and no where to park.  We crawled in traffic up to Engel and Volkers and there was a just-vacated parking spot right outside the store, right there on Fifth.  The Gods were with us.

Off to Bone Fish.  We were the first customers in and about the fourth to get our order!!  Took about half an hour.  Pricey coconut shrimp appetiser followed by by even pricier filet steak for Ken and lobster for me.  We know how to leave in style.   The icing on the cake was that Bone Fish picked up the tab as an apology for a 'poor experience'!  How can the day get any better?  They know how to say goodbye in this place; a dolphin even joined Ken for his last swim in the sea the day before.

After lunch Ken was determined to try to get his last ice cream at Regina's even though we agreed it was very unlikely that we would be able to park any where in Collier let alone Naples.  As part of our lap-of-the-Gods gamble we nipped round the back of the store where there are half a dozen thirty minute customer slots and one was empty!!!!!!!!!!  Yeah for Naples' Gods and their laps.

So, one Caramel Caribou and Rasberry Truffle (both Kens) later and Naples was done and dusted and we were off up to Orlando.  The GPS  predicted a 3hr 19min drive and it was just about that when we arrived at the hotel.

Our next delivery of the day was a large electric turntable I had.  It was brand new, cost around sixty bucks and would have been binned had I not had the brainwave of asking Kim Sher ..... runs the Miniaturia shows ...... If she knew anyone who could use it.  She was going to collect it from us.

I gave her a ring and we decided to meet her and her husband in The Tavern in Celebration.  So, off back to the car and a thirty minute ride over there.  Guess what, they also had a festival on (Oktoberfest) with roads closed and no parking any where.  Clearly the Naples Gods had hitched a ride as, by pure fluke,  we pulled up behind the back of a restaurant where there was a tow truck to ask directions.  The building turned out to be the Tavern.  I asked the tow guy if he'd let my husband 'lurk' while I delivered a parcel.  Deal done, I dashed round the corner only to discover the restaurant was pretty big, totally full and I wasn't all that sure I would know Kim in mufti.  Indeed, I have no idea how I found her, or recognised her, but I did.  

Back to the hotel, by now it was about eight o'clock; so much for a nice relaxing afternoon in Orlando.

We settled into our junior suite, watched some TV and fell into the world's comfiest bed.

Last sleep in the State as residents...... Perhaps ......

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Comic strip Sunday

Not entirely sure I can make this work.  I am still rubbish at using my iPad for 'writing' and all that entails, but here we go.  Thought you might like to see a pictorial version of Sunday.

Off to Cambier park for the Naples Concert Band.  Ken is a bucketeer for them.

We arrive an hour before the concert so Ken can hand out programmes so I wander up Fifth.

Nip in to Chicos to check out the bargain rails.

Pop in to The Best of Everything just in case I need some bling.

Note all my favourite things such as a pair of urns that I remember seeing and loving on my very first day in Naples fifteen years ago.

Amuse myself with things such as the understated antique shop.

Always note Reginas but never call in as I did that day.  Only to take photos though!  This is Ken's favourite ice cream shop.  Also a first day in Naples memory.

Back to the concert having touched base with many, many other fifth avenue memories.

Concert over and we are off to Bone Fish for late lunch/early dinner.  View from our table

Best peach bellini in town.

Can not go there without sharing bang bang shrimp as an appetiser!

There are a load more photos on the Leaving 257 web album from our last Sunday in Naples (as residents).