1 EAGLETON NOTES: September 2012



Saturday, 29 September 2012


Around 20 years ago I was one of five people who went on holiday to a holiday rental called 'La Pergola' near Casole d'Elsa in the heart of Tuscany.  The other four were my wife, Carol, Wendy and Martin (now my New Zealand 'family') and a dear friend Catherine.  It was one of those combinations that worked well.  Sometimes we all went out exploring.  Sometimes some did and others stayed by the pool and had a lazy day or part of a day.  Volterra was quite close and was a place that Catherine and I loved but the other three thought was too dark and forboding.  So Catherine and I would take ourselves off on the occasional afternoon to explore.  So this holiday I made sure that it was a place high on the list of priorities for a visit.  Of all the places we visited it has changed the most since that first visit I made to La bella Toscana.  Then it was a relatively quiet town compared to San Giminiano and Siena but now it is as busy and as touristy as the rest of them.  Having said that I still liked it and I think it had more to offer and more character than any other place we visited.  I'm not sure that I thought that at the time but in retrospect........

The heavily fortified wall
One of the piazzas

Unlike some of the other towns the traffic of residents still moves through the crowded and narrow streets

I had lunch at that very street terrace restaurant 20 odd years ago when the streets were deserted at lunchtime

It would appear that I took more photos of Volterra than any other place and here is more to come.  But not just now.  I think I've subjected you to enough for one post.

Friday, 28 September 2012


Where do I start?  One of the things which I find very difficult is writing posts about things that have passed and gone.  The Holiday in Italy seems like a million years ago.  However there are things I want to record for myself (the diary element of my blog) and to impart to others.  So there will be some catching up posts over the next wee while.   Today it is the turn of Siena

We had decided that we would go to Siena on the first Wednesday because the weather forecast was favourable (with a 20% chance of rain in Tuscany - a big place - in the afternoon) and the market is held on Wednesday morning.

One of our number wasn't too well that morning so the youngsters set off bright and early.  We oldies followed on rather later arriving in Siena about 11pm.  After nearly an hour trying to find a parking place within walking distance ie within a mile or so (until I get a new knee long distances at any speed on pavement are no longer an option for me) we decided to abandon the attempt.  I decided on one last attempt round the 'other side' of the city.  What?  No traffic?  Well not too many parking places either.  Until I found one not far from the city wall.  We were in and in time for some lunch at a lovely little cross between a trattoria and a delicatessen frequented by the University staff and students as well as tourists.

The streets of Siena's walled town are narrow

But the Piazzo del Compo is huge and a magnet for every visitor who passes through the city:

The Duomo (Cathedral) is not one of my favourites but the details on the facade are  truly amazing:

When we were on the way back to the car the heavens opened with a massive thunderstorm right overhead for about 30 minutes during which time the scaffolding in the first photo was struck several times with startling consequences.

 The scooter drove straight into the open hall in which we were taking refuge.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thankful Thursday

On 1 September (I'm just catching up) Meike aka Librarian wrote in her post about an annual walk with her Mother entitled This Beautiful Country "It is, I think, a beautiful country I live in, and I am glad about that - while I never got the point of patriotism (we don't, after all, choose the place where we are born, or the family we are born into, do we?), I appreciate very much living in a country of peace and prosperity, where I do not have to fear for my life every time I leave the house (as is sadly the case in many countries all over the world, not just in Syria)."

As I read it I realised that those words could have come out of my own mouth.  As a person who came from a city where so many identified themselves by their ancestry eg Liverpool Welsh, Liverpool Scots, Liverpool West Indian, Liverpool Chinese and particularly Liverpool Irish.  The one thing I never heard a reference to was Liverpool English. (When I was very young I don't recall anyone from the Indian sub-continent living in the City: they tended to inhabit central Lancashire towns).  The point being that it was a very eclectic and cosmopolitan society in which to be brought up.  I then moved to Scotland where I have spent the majority of my life and now spend my time divided between Scotland and New Zealand.

So what place is there for patriotism in my life?  There are two things that have caused and that are causing unpleasantness and unhappiness from taunts in the classroom to death in wars: nationalism and religion.

Today I am thankful that I live in countries where there is peace and a relative tolerance of both these things and, despite the terrible consequences of the current economic situation for many people, where there is relative prosperity.  I wish that it could be so for everyone.  

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Taking Stock

Anna's gone.  We were up at 0540 and Anna caught the morning ferry to Ullapool and thence to Inverness and the Inter-City Gold Bus to Glasgow to be home well in time for dinner.  It's been all too short a visit.

The ferry came up the East coast of the Island just after 7am before it made its way across The Minch with the sea on its stern.  For those who are not reasonable sailors the first part of the journey could not have been pleasant as these photos show.

The house is quiet.  Yesterday's storms which battered the Country gave us gales but little else but now the wind has abated just enough for the sheets and towels to be drying on the line without being blown away (I hope!).

It's the first time since the 31 May (with the exception of a few scattered days) that I have been home on my own.  Unless Marcel and Molly appear I've no visitors until friends come for dinner and the night on Monday and Viv arrives from France on Tuesday.  

It's all strangely quiet apart from Mahler's First Symphony which I've chosen to keep me company.

So today will be a catching up day when I will, hopefully, manage to catch up with my emails and phone calls and perhaps even manage a blog post or two.  After all I have enough material to keep me going until Christmas and I see that I've only got 36 days before I return to my other life.  

Sunday, 23 September 2012

I'm Home

It's been a long journey.  I've been away over four weeks (but a few days less than the five I anticipated) and driven the best part of 5000 miles or 8000 kilometres.   I haven't done all that I intended to do - I couldn't see my Goddaughter nor her Mum which was a huge minus - but time and things conspired against me at the end.  It's been a wonderful time being part of the extended family of one of my oldest friends who arranged the holiday and brought six people from four countries around the world together in a large and beautiful Tuscan villa  to celebrate her 70th Birthday.  

The journey home took a week.  Mo (friend from Canada who's birthday it was) and Di (her sister in law) and I travelled back to Di's beautiful and restful house near Merseyside in the trusty Nighthawk via The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Di had never seen it), the Cinque Terre (and satisfy Mo's desire to walk between two of the five towns), Albiano near Lucca (to see my dear friends Peter and Sandie from Callander who have a house there) and Antibes (to satisfy my desire to see my son Gaz in situ in his life as Chief Engineer on a super-yacht.

Then I drove up to the Scottish Borders to visit friends in their new home before bringing a friend, Anna, up from Bishopbriggs to stay on Lewis for a few days.  It's been a good journey.  

There have been the occasional hiccups  for example when one hotel booking disappeared into the ether and when our rooms were double allocated in another hotel.  The most irritating problem for me was internet access.  For the most part lack of time meant I wouldn't have been posting much but in Antibes the hotel's internet server provider went down and thereafter in France I couldn't get internet access even on my phone to set up a wireless hot spot for my laptop.  I couldn't link to Di's wifi and after that I managed to answer a few emails but catching up with friends precluded anything more.

So this morning I woke to my old familiar view just before the sun rose across The Minch over the mountains of the Scottish Mainland:

I know that many of you will have seen it all before but to me it was just wonderful to see 'my' view again and to be able to share it with you.

Hopefully I'll manage to catch up over the next few weeks with all the posts of the holiday as well as catching up with all of my friends in Blogland. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Last Views

from my bedroom window at 0800 this morning:

Today we are going to Pisa (Diane hasn't seen the Leaning Tower) and then I'm making a detour north of Lucca to see friends from Callander (Scotland) who have a house there and on to La Spezia where we will, hopefully, stay so that Mo can see the Cinque Terre tomorrow before we drive round the coast to see Gaz in Antibes.

I'm not sure when I'll be back in Blogland but, hopefully, soon.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


We drove to Florence on Tuesday.  It was a long day.  For those of you expecting a catalogue of the glorious sights of Florence or its buildings or history then you'll be disappointed.  I suspect, however, many of you will just give a sigh of relief.  What you are going to get is some impressions from a person who last visited the city in the days when you could walk into the Accademia and see Michelangelo's David and photograph it and take a picture of your companions with it and no one else.  You could just stand and gaze and wonder at the 4 years it took to create compared with some other works (of art).  I took a picture of a statue in one of the rooms which still hangs with others in my kitchen from a stay in Italy in the late 1990s.  It may be worth a post when I get home.  In those days we wandered round the inside of the The Duomo (Cathedral) (impressive but not really my taste) and climbed up the tower to the top without so much as a wait.

As with all things touristy things have changed.  In this case quite dramatically.  The sheer quantity of people took me by surprise.  

If you are going to Florence by car from Tuscany here is a tip.  Park outside in one of the huge (free) carparks and travel in by public transport.  We parked at Ponte a Greve near the Firenze Scandicci Exit on the A1 Highway and close to the Firenze-Pisa-Livorno Highway. There is a big Coop supermarket right in front.   From here you can easily get to Florence's main central train station, SMN, with the relatively new tram service and you'll be in downtown Florence in 10-15 minutes for €1.20.  Unfortunately it cost us €2.40 because two of us were under the impression (under orders) to buy tickets.  It was interesting giving 6 tickets away.  Explanations were a little beyond my Italian language ability.

Outside the Duomo and the Baptistry: just hordes not queues

Going from the Duomos to the River Arno
Along the Arno to the Ponte Vecchio
The outside of the Duomo is beyond description in its detailed magnificence and workmanship
A whole building of such detail
The Piazza Della Signora with the traditional horse drawn 'taxis'

The 'outside' David and the Palazzo Vecchio.  Every tour guide carries an identifier but this was definitely the most noticeable.
And from one of the most respected and highbrow museums of art in Italy comes possibly the tackiest piece of 'art' ever seen:

I'm not sure whether one is allowed to photograph the Municipal Police in Italy but Florence has quite a lot of them.  Most seem to be female and all seemed friendly and smiled a lot and some wore marvellous earrings.  However I wouldn't argue with anyone packing a 9mm pistol like they do.  Of course this will not look unusual to my North American or even my Australian readers but to anyone in the UK or New Zealand it's a bit scary - especially as discharging  a gun of that (or any) calibre in a crowded city centre is likely to result in collateral injury.

 To be continued......

Thankful Thursday

I was reminded today when I read Jaz's post for Thankful Thursday entitled, unusually, Thursday Tantrums that we spend a lot of our lives taking things for granted and not being thankful for the minutiae that makes up the majority of our lives.

Jaz is suffering from double vision.  It prompted her to say, amongst other things of course,
When you are not under threat it is easy to forget that each day is really a gift.  As we go through the motions of the same breakfast routine and off to the same work place.
I remember that time fondly but I'm ashamed at how blase I was about life. The "I'll always be ok" mentality, "it'll never happen to me!"

Well it can and sometimes does. I really hope you can find good stuff in your life amongst all the routine and mundane.
I'll say amen to that Jaz.

Be happy.

In Florence


Yesterday (Wednesday 12 September) we went to the little walled town of Monterigionni.  I've been before but, unlike the other places I've been I couldn't remember the town inside the walls.  Unfortunately the weather overall, though very hot, didn't lend itself to a distant view and this was the best I could do although there are three stunning photos, including an aerial photo here.

Dante (Dante Alighieri was a Tuscan) used the turrets of Monteriggioni to evoke the sight of the ring of giants encircling the Infernal abyss:
As with circling round
Of turrets, Monteriggioni crowns his walls;
E’en thus the shore, encompassing the abyss,
Was turreted with giants, half their length
Uprearing, horrible, whom Jove from heaven
Yet threatens, when his muttering thunder rolls.
Inside the walls the town was, as many of the Tuscan towns are, a tourist show place.  Living in it must be a nightmare for those not involved in the tourist industry (if there are any such residents).  

The Church was by far the plainest I have come across in Italy.