Oasis (not the band)

I’ve only been living in the new place for 76 days and so I’m still not very savvy about the local area and amenities: The corona virus and lockdown hasn’t helped exploration either, but today while on dog-walking duty I found a real gem, an oasis of calm just a few minutes from my back door, and so after the dog decided he wanted to go home I returned to explore.

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It’s a patch of woodland with a path that meanders through clouds of cow parsley and the sound of the nearby houses is diffused by the trees until as you walk further it becomes almost like white noise.

Today the sun is prising its way through the canopy, sending shadows and shapes racing across the ground as I stroll off the path and into a small clearing, where it’s obvious, that while the world is locked in a battle with a microscopic enemy, nature continues unabated.

Like most cities, ours has a proud industrial heritage. Before the 1980’s, when cheap imports of dinnerware from Asia began to flood the market, chance was the plate you’d be having your lunch on or your teacup would have come from Stoke on Trent – there’s a reason we’re called, The Potteries. (Don’t get me started on how greedy management/owners destroyed the industry in their quest for fast profits.)

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An internet search will bring up archival photos of bottle ovens belching smoke and dust into the air, but things change and those historical clouds of smog are gone; along with the skills of the city’s people. But enough of that, let’s get back to today.

Despite our industrial past our city has lots of green spaces, in fact as Misha Herwin said in her blog, we have a green city.

Stepping back onto the path I find some bluebells standing proud among the grasses and the sky coloured flowers remind of my childhood before the plants were protected, when, with my sister we’d pick armfuls of them, breathing in their delicate perfume.

Just a few feet away from the bluebells is a patch of buttercups, their happy yellow heads held high in the stillness of the morning. IMG_0272

There’s no breeze but there’s a definite aroma of garlic in the air, I take a few more paces and the smell is stronger, and there nestling in a shady spot I find a strip of wild garlic growing, it’s white flowers standing out in bright defiance against the broad dark green leaves.

Further down the path is a patch of forget-me-nots, forgotten among the undergrowth, their leggy stems holding the pale blue flowers aloft. I look at these tiny flowers and not for the first time, I wonder why they’re also known as scorpion grass.

It’s amazing how just a few minutes disconnected from modern living can top you up with a feeling of well-being. Simple things can often be the antidote to stress and anxiety, and nothing is more soothing than the tranquillity of a woodland walk.

My favourite discovery of the walk is four dandelion clocks standing proud, waiting for a breeze to tell the time. I like them so much I that I can’t decide which of my photographs I like best, so I’ll post both of them.

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The Saucepan and OCD

There’s a saying that goes something like, never judge a book by its cover. Now,  before anyone thinks, is this another blog posting about writing, let me say right now that it’s actually got bog all about writing. Well that is if we pass over the fact that I used a cliché in the opening paragraph and that age old question, are clichés bad? Well, come to think about it, yes they are, very bad indeed – now for those interested in the mechanics of writing, go discuss, for those interested in mindless waffle from a Potteries bloke living in Italy, continue on.

The reason I say you should never judge is because you can fall foul of finding out just what an arse you are and in my case it’s all down to a saucepan. I’ve been coming to Italy since 1988, my first visit was on September 8, now is it OCD or autism, that the date is cemented into my memory, a friend once told me that because I have the ability to retain numbers easily, I could be on the autistic spectrum. You see I remember things like phone numbers, car registrations and UK postcodes: Don’t get me started, you give me a postcode anywhere in the United Kingdom, and I’ll tell you to where in the country it belongs. But I digress, so let’s back to the saucepan. 100_6040

In all the hardware shops, market stalls and department stores, they sell what I’ve always referred to as cheap pans; I use the phrase cheap not because they are comparatively inexpensive but as a derogatory term. They always seemed to be a cheaply fashioned piece of aluminium, that I imagined wouldn’t be very serviceable and easily damaged. Oh, how wrong was I, I purchased one two weeks ago for the princely sum of €3,50 and haven’t stopped using it yet. It conducts heat so much better than my thick bottomed expensive ones purchased in the UK, it cleans easier and don’t ask me how, but the handles don’t get hot. Now I realise that all those years of sneering at saucepans was wasted. No wonder the Italian’s use them, they’re brilliant. I can boil a pan of pasta in half the time and it cuts down on risotto time enough to enable the cook to squeeze in another glass of wine with the guests.

So what has this saucepan got to do with my OCD? Well not much, in fact in the scheme of things this will be possibly the most tenuous link you’ll ever see. The other day I put the saucepan in the washing up bowl and went outside onto the patio: how pretentious am I; patio – it’s a flat bit of concreted land out front. Anyway out front was a line of washing drying in the early evening sunshine. I looked at it and instantly knew that something was wrong with it. Look at the picture below and can you see what’s wrong?

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Obviously, the towels shouldn’t be mixed with the T shirt, but it’s the flagrant misuse of pegs. Two to each item equals an uneconomical usage of pegs. Also this leads to spaces between the clothing making optimum wind for drying is wasted. Now if you share the pegs between items the gaps are reduced making the washing flap in the breeze more effectively leading to a shorter drying time. Also if you group the slower drying things together, then you spend less time repositioning items as you remove the dry ones from their section of the washing line.

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Now for those of you who think there’s more to life than worrying about washing on a line, let me say I agree. And for those who say I have too much time on my hands, I also say, I agree. But then again, I do have OCD, so for me it’s perfectly natural to think about these things. It could be worse, I could check the doors locked twenty times before I go out, or wash my hands fifty times after touching fish or obsess over which brand of pencil to write with. Come to think about it, the pencil thing is true…

…maybe it’s time to lie down in a darkened room.