Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sotto Le Stelle 08 - Kitchen decisions

Puglia, Italy. Thursday 21-March-2012 and ff.

The primary reason for this visit is to finalise the kitchen design so the plumbing and wiring work can begin; we do not want our decision making to hold up the critical path.

The scaffolding is down revealing not only our sparkly new frontage but also that of our neighbour. He took advantage of Saverio's presence to get his wall and balcony refurbished.

Freshly painted frontage

This was also our first sight of the grand space now the dividing wall is down (apart from a small stub to divide the kitchen area from the living room area). And doesn't it look fantastic?

The wall is down!

With his expected attention to detail, Saverio recycled the stones from the door frame to finish off the end of the stub. All the other stones are palletted up off-site for future use. You do not waste centuries old, well dressed stone blocks.

This is the view from the kitchen area towards the living area (left) and bedroom area (right). The current plan is to put a bookcase as a divider between the two with some kind of curtain from bookcase end to the right hand pillar.

Living room / Bedroom

We spend four and a half hours at Euromobili, over two visits, finalising the kitchen design: sequence of units, choice of appliances, and exact location of wires and pipes.

Mary at Euromobili

The final design was fridge, dishwasher, sink, hob, oven with the sink centred in front of the door-niche. Appliance, chosen, deposit paid and detailed plans printed for the builder - one stop shopping - job done!


On the Saturday we showed our friends round the building site.

Mark (me), Richard, Mary, Kath, John, Chris

We had missed Richard's 60th so we brought out a Konditor and Cook cake from the UK. Armed with a bottle of prosecco and some plastic cups and plates we had a mini-birthday party.


There was plenty of eating and drinking as one would be expect in Italy. Friday we went out with Carole and Mino to try out a local restaurant newly opened by Marco, a colleague of Mino's. Saturday we went out with the above crowd out to Il Giardino in Cisternino. Sunday it was lunch with Chris and John then off to the airport for a late flight back to Stansted and a chilly UK.

Full set of pictures on Flickr:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thames Path 06 - Staines to Windsor

Sunday 17-March-13.

The next leg of our Thames Path walk:

Mark (me), Mary, John

This time with a diminished team. As you can tell from John's hood up it was a pretty soggy walk.

The London Stone

This stone marks the end of the City of London's river jurisdiction (1197-1857).

Victoria Bridge and Windsor Home Park Farm

The railway station is pretty cute. It is the end of the line.


Our end point was The Royal Oak for a pub lunch and the train home.

Full set of pictures on Flickr:


Distance this leg 15.1 km
Previous legs 118.6 km
Total so far 133.7 km

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ronnie Scott's Blues Explosion! at Ronnie Scott's

A four part Friday!

It started out as a LastMinute.Com deal at The Oxo Tower Brasserie. Then Mary decided to see who was on at Ronnie Scott's. Ronnie Scott's Blue's Explosion was the answer, sometimes featuring our favorite Blues guitarist Marcus Bonfanti. We booked the late show so as to not have to rush our supper.

Supper at the Oxo Tower Brasserie

That left the question of how to fill in the time between the meal and the show. This answer was off to The Spice of Life to see what live music was on offer. For a fiver we saw the most excellent Freddie and the Hoares. After a pint of Guinness (preempting Paddy's Day) we still had time to spare so it was off to Kettner's for another glass of champagne.

Freddie and the Hoares at The Spice of Life

Finally off to Ronnie Scott's for ringside seats - literally - I was right next to the stage, I could touch it with a languid gesture, I could tell the time by the trumpeter's watch. Paddy Milner lead the band (feat. Marcus) and the band put on a great show. To be there, in one of the iconic music venues, in one of the greatest cities in the world, watching a great bunch of musicians playing live - it doesn't get much better than that!

Ronnie Scott's stage

We went home late, very late. It was after one am when we stumbled out into the street.

A punk stopped me on the street. He said, "You got a light, mac?"
I said, "No, but I've got a dark brown overcoat."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cleaning the Wandle March 2013

A big turnout this month, 58 instead of the usual 40. Possibly something to do with Mothering Sunday? Apparently the largest turnout ever was when the clean up fell on Valentine's Day, make of that what you will.

This month I thought I would introduce some of the Wandle Trust team.

Every clean up starts with a safety briefing from Erica. Rather like the airplane safety demonstration I know it well however there are new volunteers every time so we have to go through the usual spiel. She did admit to skipping the bit about sunburn!


The official photographer Sally Ann whose pictures adorn the official blog (written by Erica). Much better quality than my hastily snatched iPhone snaps.


Jo who does a brilliant job of baking themed cakes and making a hot soup - much appreciated in the winter months. This month, with Easter approaching, she baked a Simnel cake - one of her best yet, absolutely delicious.


Andy who is marshal in his hi-vis jacket. Here presented with a miniature shopping trolley as a thank you for all his efforts as he leaves for North Africa for two years.


Fortunately the water was lower than last month; that was a little scary at times. This month was only waist deep but still as chilly.


After lunch my waders took a puncture above the right knee and my boot filled up with freezing water. I changed into some slightly over-sized waders and decided to stay landside on trolley duty.


Then back home for a quick shower and off to Farnham for a meal with parents and siblings to celebrate Mothering Sunday and my father's 88th birthday which was, coincidentally, that very day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Courtney Pine at Ronnie Scott's

London, England. Thursday 07-March-2013.

Another musical evening in the legendary jazz venue that is Ronnie Scott's. They have a strict 'no photography' rule, even crappy iPhone pictures, in part to protect the monopoly of their in-house photographer David Sinclair. So here is my photo of the evening:

I have no idea what style or genre of jazz the support act "Curios" was but it is what I think of as "dinner jazz" - very mellow and featuring wire brush on the drum kit. With the pianist as the composer the nearest I could think of in our collection was Chick Corea but these guys were more laid back. Alas I do not know enough about jazz sub-genres to really put a name to what style I am listening to.

When Courtney Pine started playing I was sometimes reminded of Spyro Gyra who Wikipedia informs me are 'jazz fusion' and 'smooth jazz'.

The first track he was a bit too much of a show-off virtuoso. For the second track he eased it back a bit and made it more of an ensemble. Then he played an excellent, long, two-set performance finishing at 11pm so we got our money's worth.

Ahead of the beat: Courtney Pine (Picture: David Sinclair)

As he chatted I revised my opinion regards his egocentricity - he came across as a really nice, down-to-earth bloke, genuinely chuffed to be in Ronnie Scott's and with a real passion for the music.

At the end we bought a CD by the guitarist Cameron Pierre and a vinyl of Courtney's latest album which he signed for us. Top evening!

Evening Standard 4 * review
Guardian 3 * review

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sotto Le Stelle 07 - Starting the reconstruction

Now the deconstruction is complete and the reconstruction begins.

The roof of the stairwell from the street intruded into the volume of the bathroom and was very thin. That section has been re-cemented to make it more stable.

Arched roof of stairway

The access stairs to the roof previously had some wooden steps to get up to to the first stone. Saverio has built us some permanent steps. He is looking for some stone treads to match the one you can see at the doorway.

Access steps to roof stairs

One of the key structural decisions from the previous visit was to block up the door straight ahead from the street into the area that will be our bedroom. Rather than block up the full depth we have now have a shallow niche which will allow for some kind of storage.

Blocked bedroom door

The arch into the bathroom has been narrowed but, unlike the previous doorway, it has been set back to leave the curve of the arch visible and that will not be plastered over.

Bathroom door

All the exposed exterior surfaces are now re-rendered - the external walls front and back, the chimneys and the roof terrace parapet walls.

Roof terrace re-rendered

Only ten days until we are back out in Italy to choose, order and pay for the kitchen units, work surface and appliances.

Full set of photos on Flickr:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Ecco - 57% of the shoes in my wardrobe

Not being a girl, my shoe collection is carefully managed. [Sharp intake of breath at sexist generalisation - OK Mary's tower of shoes is pretty restrained]. I only buy a new pair when the old pair is ready for the bin. Each pair has to justify its place.

I am a great fan of Ecco shoes. My feet are wide and Ecco's size 43 fits like a glove *ahem*. I have been saying for a while that most of my shoes are Ecco so I thought I'd better check it out. For "normal" shoes in my wardrobe the answer is indeed more than half - 57% in fact (8 out of 14).

Ecco - 7 plus 1 at work

Non-Ecco - 5 plus 1 at work
I notice that I seem to go for pairs of pairs: 2 for walking 2 brown brogues, 2 trainers and so on...

In my calculation I am not counting 2 pairs of cycling shoes, 2 pairs of wellingtons, 2 pairs of slippers, 2 pairs of old gardening shoes and 2 pairs of deck shoes in Italy. But then I don't think Ecco make those except deck shoes. Even if I counted the latter I'd still be at 50%.

My total collection of footwear of all kinds is thus 24.

Friday, March 01, 2013

A Mild Case of Dupuytren's Contracture

My father has lumpy palms which I had thought were callouses or some kind of arthritis or something. Then about a year ago a similar lump appeared on my right palm. Didn't bother me much as it didn't hurt and, given as how I am my father's son, hardly surprising - more "Ho, hum, here we go: the start of old age crumbling."

Then a facebook friend posted a picture of his bandaged hand following surgery for Dupuytren's contracture. I Googled the condition and there was picture of a hand looking just like mine!

Wikipedia picture
My hand
Dad's hand
(sorry about the colour - iPhone in low light level)
According to Wikipedia:
  • "It is an inherited proliferative connective tissue disorder" - tick! like father like son.
  • "The ring finger and little finger are the fingers most commonly affected." - tick! both Dad's ring fingers show it, now my right hand, I expect the left is a matter of time.
  • "Dupuytren's contracture progresses slowly and is usually painless." - phew! certainly true in Dad's case so here's hoping.
At least I know what my hands will look like in 27 years time.