My Flower is at Borgo a Mozzano

Borgo a Mozzano is well-known for its azalea festival which I have described in various posts:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/another-fabulous-borgo-azalea-festival/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/astounding-azaleas-are-arriving/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/blooming-azaleas/

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/legging-it-in-leghorn/

It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when no azalea festival was announced for this April. I needn’t have worried for this May week-end Borgo has put on a truly dazzling day of flowers which in some respects is even better than the azalea displays.

There are contributions from every borgo or village in the comune of Borgo, streets events and art displays. Car-parking is, as usual easy in the Penny Market supermarket park and the catering includes everything from lampredotto to zucchero filato.

With these climatically somewhat unpredictable days there was a sharp tempestuous shower in the afternoon but, at least the flowers on show appreciated it! Judge for yourselves.

The old town turned itself into a flower garden, thanks to arrangements arranged by local florists, associations and schools. I especially liked the Vespa display with 1969 original trappings including flower-title 45 rpm records and a dansette gramophone.

Even door handles were decorated.

There were many handicraft stalls.

Even restaurants offered flower-themed menus. I think anyone who has stayed in Italy will have tasted how delicious courgette flowers and even dandelions are when fried in batter.

Simonetta Cassai hosted an exhibition of paintings which highlighted what progress her students had made in the art course held there.

I loved these boxed 3-D pictures which a local teacher also uses for elementary school activities.

The Municipal Library held a photographic exhibition.

Activities starting from Borgo included a trek up to Monte Bargiglio which I have described at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/the-eye-of-lucca/

The Monte Agliale Astronomical Observatory will also be open during the evenings of the festival, welcoming visitors to discover the wonders of the sky if the clouds we’ve been recently having permit,

There are also treks along the Gothic Line which I have described at:

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/catching-the-train-at-borgo-a-mozzano/

For more information on the festival look at the web site at

http://www.giardinoazalea.it

It’s an event that you cannot afford to miss if you are in the Lucchesia and entry is free too!

Cherry Ripe (Soon)

It’s that time of year when the hills are alive with the sound of strimmers and lawnmowers. Yesterday taking advantage of the fine weather we’ve been having, with fresh mornings building up to a not over-hot mid-day, I tackled my own grass-growing problem.

I found that the problem lay not in cutting the grass but rather in not cutting it for my ‘orto’ was so full of beautiful wild flowers that it was truly transformed into an earthly rainbow.

I solved the problem by leaving patches of wild meadow about the place which will also please the butterflies.

My various trees are all beginning to flourish.  The olives promise a good harvest this year:

It’ll also soon be cherry-time,

Which reminds me of that gorgeous song with words by Robert Herrick and music by Charles Edward Horn. Horn was also a singer and performed in Stephen Storace’s ‘The siege of Belgrade.’ Storace’s sister Nancy, incidentally, was the singer specially chosen by Mozart for the part of Susanna in his ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’. But I digress…

(Cherry seller from ‘cries of London)

Here are the words of the song followed by my favourite recording of it:

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy
Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy

If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer there
Where my love whose lips do smile
There’s the land, or Cherry Isle
There’s the land or Cherry Isle.

Palm-Spring Sunday

Spring gets more suddenly with us every year we’re here. It’s now truly sprung. as the hackneyed phrase goes. In our garden the commonly called gaggiolo or Florentine lily or English iris is putting on quite a show and all the other flowers are now in competition with each. Even the vegetables are beginning to start a sweet show. Our Japanese maple is finally putting out its leaves. The muscari are thriving and the wysteria  will now start putting on its fireworks display. Even the pomegranate is showing signs of life. The azalea is continuing to thrive.

Spring is in the air

germinating in our hearts:

happiness blossoms

 

Which reminds me that today is also Palm Sunday marking Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a Donkey.

 

PALMS

  

I was standing by the east gate

when I first saw him pass.

Could this man create so much hate

and yet unite all class?

 

Through the thick crowds I caught his face

and for one fleet instance

it seemed as if he could replace

death itself with his glance.

 

People had cut down palm boughs,

waving them before him

with hosannas and solemn vows

in one rapt festive whim.

 

Sat astride the colt of an ass,

prophecy-fulfilling,

he rode through the acclaiming mass

like a king returning.

 

How would this local triumph end?

No blood had yet been spilled.

Would it forevermore transcend

the man, the god they killed?

 

All we knew was that we seemed free –

our happy feast had come.

Yet wine and bread would never be

the same again for some.

 

And as the palm leaves’ cross-shaped folds

are given in this nave

will he say that our future holds

no terror in the grave?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camellias, Kumihimo and a Concert

Camellias originate in eastern and southern Asia and were introduced into Europe during the eighteenth century. The tea plant is a member of the camellia family and, indeed, the expansion of the tea trade enabled many new varieties to be brought into Europe. Hybridization did the rest.

Every March at Sant’Andrea di Compito, by the slopes of the Monte Pisano, south of Lucca there is a camellia festival where one can fully appreciate the variety of flower forms and colours of this perfume-less plant. A shuttle bus takes you to the camellias – the only way to get there as the narrow roads would soon be clogged up with cars. The camellarium is spectacular at this time, the mill-stream walk is delightful.

The exhibitions are most informative, there are many stalls selling local products and there are also musical events.

The camellia festival of Sant’Andrea is something we always try to attend. You can read my account of our visit there in 2013 at

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/thankyou-camellia/

and in 2015 at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/la-traviatas-favourite-flower/ when Sandra’s mum, then 93 years old, accompanied us.

And in 2016 at

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/the-ravishing-camellias-of-compitese/

Why choose this area for camellias? The fact is that the climate is ideal for them. It was the English ex-pats of the nineteenth century, escaping from the torrid summer of the Tuscan plains, who discovered this and introduced the camellia to these hills. Indeed, dotted around the Compitese are many aristocratic villas complete with their luscious camellias

and there is even a society dedicated to old varieties of camellias in Lucca province.

Could I add anything new about the visit to the camellias this year? Not much except that as things of beauty these flowering shrubs remain a joy for ever.

The day started off very sunny but storm cloud started to gather in the late afternoon. However, the rain held off until the last stretch of my homeward journey.

The setting of the camellia festa is so very beautiful. Sant’Andrea is nestled in a valley of the Pisan hills and the town is quiet charming. Near the entrance is an exhibition centre with some prize camellias.

There was a section on the Japanese art of braiding known as Kumihimo and using a special loom. These braids are used to fasten the button-less Kimono.

An open-air exhibition brought photographs, whimsical sculptures  and sly cartoons together.

There was also a tea ceremony in which we were allowed to participate.

At the top of the Sant’Andrea is the magnificent parish church.

I arrived in time for a concert given by an unusual ensemble consisting of two double bases, accordion and flute. The fine performance included pieces by Piazzolla, Bartok, Domenico Scarlatti and Bottesini, who was the Paganini of the double bass.

Today is the final day of the Camellia show in the Compitese. So if you are in the area and haven’t been there do so now! It would be truly sad to miss one of Lucchesia’s most colourful and evocative events.

 

.

PS If you fancy your cup of tea not only can you buy delicious camellia tea but you can have the ultimate Italian invention: camellia-tea flavoured ice-cream!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Primavera

The earth is ready to burst with multicoloured energy. The soil below my feet is vibrating with the force of a new spring season and it’s just two days before spring (la primavera) officially begins. Here is the scene in my main field:

The daffodils and crocuses are showing off their last displays before they go to sleep again and primroses are exploding everywhere on our slopes. Our little house at Longoio is also displaying its own modest contribution to the advent of the season of rebirth and love:

Olives Galore

Olives this year, in our little part of the world, are giving a prodigious yield. Neighbours from Mobbiano have been to the frantoio (olive press) at Valdottavo twice already with 250 kilos of olives every time. They can’t believe it for a harvest like this has never happened to them before.

It needs ten kilos of olives to produce one litre of oil. I thought I’d done my olives two weeks ago but when I returned today the branches I’d picked barely two weeks ago were again sprouting more olives. It was astounding…..

What more could one wish to have: a deep  blue sky and  truly warm sun around mid-day and one’s own little supply of olive trees while all around the warmth of late autumn colours embrace and the lenticular clouds above fascinate with their patterns.

It takes very little to make one happy in this world. Truly the best things in life are free – or rather they are impregnated with freedom, far away from those horrible restraints that the world (and oneself) is constantly trying to impose upon life’s essential being. Liberty is there, truly, for the gathering, for the choosing….

Above silver leaves

a sky of late autumn blue:

hands filled with olives.

Towards Shangri-La

It’s only last year that the number of Chinese (total population 1.357 billion) living in urban areas has overtaken those living in the country. This is an extraordinary development achieved in record time and a far cry from the old Maoist philosophy of banishing intellectuals, capitalists and professionals to live and work in the paddy fields.

If you want to see rural China visit it now before the country changes beyond recognition. I have a friend who was utterly shocked at the difference of ten years that separated his first and second visits to the world’s third largest country (after Russia and Canada). He admitted that he’d preferred his first vision of China but that clearly depends on one’s world view.

We did manage to visit various villages and houses in rural areas. As I live in a village myself I was particularly interested in the kinds of activities non-urban Chinese people carried out after the economic reforms initiated in 1979 by Den Xiaoping (which, most significantly, involved the de-collectivization of farms).

Here are a few views outside a village near Lijiang in Yunnan Province. The contrast between city and country could not be starker:

There were also some ancient crafts, particularly an exquisite embroidery school, taking place in another village.

This house has several features which those living in our part of the world may recognise. First is the wood stack (especially since temperatures can go down to minus 15 in the winter nights!)

Sweet corn is grown, some of it for making into maize flour but much of it used to feed the pigs.

Pine cones are collected to gather together their precious nuts which can command high prices in the local markets:

There was a goodly selection of salads and cabbages in the inner courtyard:

dscn4095

Instead of the Briscola card game favoured by Italians there was mah-jong instead – naturally!

dscn4161-2

We were now ready to leave the lovely Lijiang area and head north by bus and reach a province which has been renamed Shangri-La, although locals still refer to its main town as Zhongdian. It’s the headquarters of the Deqen Tibetann Autonomous Prefecture. Our journey would take us through some spectacular country inhabited largely by Tibetans, although we were still outside the T. A. R. (Tibetan autonomous region). The scenery grew hillier and hillier and the road more and more twisty. What sights would we meet?