Thursday, October 11, 2012

I cannot believe anyone is actually following this blog anymore but if you are, I want to tell you that I have left lovely Lucca and its wall and I now live in Battle, East Sussex, UK. There are many reasons for this but primarily I wanted to reconnect with my British roots, see more of my siblings and my daughter Jenny and my grandsons, and also to make it easier for everyone visiting this side of the pond. So, last year I left my flat and my lovely friends and after a year or so looking around I have chosen to settle in Battle.I have created a new battle blog called Blooming Battle, so maybe I will hear from anyone who may be interested in exploring with me as I set out to find out about this tiny town with its huge history!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Loss of Chelsea

I cannot believe that after so long anyone would visit my blog. I just logged in today and was astonished to find some sweet messages and even a poem sympathizing with me about my dog Chelsea's sudden death on Monday night. I don't even know how you guys knew about it, but thank you all so much! You made me cry--but it was a good cry!
Actually, I am completely heart broken and I have just cried so much I can hardly see out of my eyes and have to wear dark glasses when I go out so everyone doesn't think I am a vampire!
Everything seems to remind me of my faithful little dog:she would always follow me from room to room wherever I went; in fact it was quite a joke because when I was taking photos of my house in Windsor before putting it on the market, I found that Chelsea was posing in every photo as if she was the one showing the house!
Chelsea was 16 and 1/2 when she died. She had a marvelous life with me. She entered my life at a significant time just after my mother had died and when Kate was still at school, and she was a wonderful healing influence for our family. She gave us so much pleasure and love. I was really lucky to find such a great and unique dog. Maybe too, she has left me at a significant time too, as now I will be able to travel more freely and to spend more time with my family in the UK, US and Canada without having to leave her. Most importantly, she didn't suffer and died in her sleep.
I am posting the last picture of her and I have adapted a well-known nursery rhyme as a dedication to Chelsea, now buried in the grounds of a lovely Tuscan villa.
Mary had a little dog,
Her face was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
Her dog was sure to go!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Autumn Days..

Where does time go and why does it fly by faster as I get older? Now the wall is dappled with that wonderful warm autumn glow. The leaves are beginning to turn and the nights and early mornings are chilly --even though it reached 24 degrees C. today!

I have been busy: a month in London getting to know the newest grandchild, then a week in Ireland where we were the guests of my wonderful eccentric brother always known to my children by the self-styled name of "Wicked Uncle Peter". Chelsea went to stay with a friend here who owns a hotel in a beach-side town situated about twenty minutes from here. She spent a lot of times sitting on the front steps of the hotel getting spoilt by hotel guests. No tears from her then.
September passed quickly with a succession of guests and all too quickly October has arrived...

I made a lot of new friends in September: I discovered that our local dog shelter was closing down and I went on a sort of crusade. I visited the kennel which is situated in a beautiful abandoned villa with lots of green space and trees round it, in the village of Arliano and got to know the dogs and some of the volunteers there. The estate was bequeathed to man's unwanted four-footed friends by the French countess. It is entirely run by volunteers who go there on a regular basis to feed the dogs and clean out the kennels and give the dogs lots of love and affection.
Now this kennel is like a little family commune. The dogs are really well cared for and consider it their home, so it is very sad that it will close soon and the dogs will be separated and sent to other kennels. Quite a few have found homes but still twenty or so remain. I nearly adopted a beautiful old Siberian Husky called Asterix, but somebody got in first! Good for Asterix though! In any case, there are some beautiful, big, young, dogs there needing homes but I have a small apartment and an old dog to consider. One dog, Bobo reminds me a lot of Mars. So instead of adopting, I wrote an article for a local English publication that I hope will be published in November and some more dogs will find homes. Fabrizio and I have gone several times to take various dogs for a walk--even though sometimes it seemed the other way round with the big dogs! So we met some kind-hearted doggie people and some wonderful dogs with some very sad stories of cruelty and abandonment....
State Bene!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Heat wave in Lucca

It is so hot here that every time I go out I need to shower again when I come back. Tomorrow I will be leaving for London because I am going to meet my latest grandchild Toby who is one week old and help my daughter for a few weeks. I am now procrastinating about getting ready as I really hate packing a suitcase. Even though I travel quite often, I never get any better at it. I always seem to leave something vital behind and take all the wrong things instead. I inevitably pack too much and then there are all the presents and requested olive oil and wine that I hope will not break in my case and ruin all my any case travelling is rather horrid these days, I think. I feel like an alien the moment I enter the airport. Passengers are now the potential enemy and are treated as such. I know that it is a necessary process but it makes the airport experience so frustrating not to mention slow. When I travel in the U.S. I am always singled out for a search. I always ask why they pick me and they always assure me it is quite random and not because I have a gallows face!
Chelsea hates me going away and she gets very glum from the moment the suitcase comes out and she follows me around from room to room as I wander about deciding and then changing my mind about what to pack. Usually she goes to my friend Giovanni and despite the hang-dog face before I leave she has a wonderful time there in the country. She loves him and goes off without a backward glance...

London is a wonderful city as it is so vibrant although it is very expensive. The parks are beautiful and plentiful and the main museums are free which is amazing. My daughter is always bumping into famous people like Jude Law and Hugh Grant but I only seem to see people I recognize but can't quite place. Once I saw the Hobbit uncle ? Bilbo Baggins though (great actor name of Sir Ian Holm) as I was walking around Kensington High Street. The pace of life is so different from Lucca, as everyone rushes around running for trains and buses whereas here no one hurries about and I like that so much.
Well, this was fun but I really must go and pack!

Monday, July 21, 2008


It has been over a year since I wrote last and I can't really imagine that anyone will read this but it has been a fantastic year in many ways. Dominating this period was the birth of Baz, who I have now met twice and of course the Hewlett-Loughman wedding which, because it was in the UK, turned out to be such a very happy reunion of our enormous, crazy, wonderful family. Jane was beautiful, David was handsome, Baz was making his voice heard and the child attendants were enchanting. My other little grandson was afraid of my fascinator ( this is a strange head decoration worn at weddings and Ascot by crazy English women) and looked at me in horror until I removed it and then he saw it was his Nonna--which is Italian for Granny --and not some strange bird of prey swooping down to gobble him up.
Sisters Kate and Moyra sang a wonderful song and David and Jane were absolutely crying with emotion.

After the wedding Kate came back with me and my partner Fabrizio to Lucca. Fabrizio hadn't met most of the family before this but he was instantly accepted as he is as crazy and funny and sweet as they are. Alas, Kate could only stay three days before heading off back to London for the Meet the Hewletts convention or whatever. I have heard little from her since as she is fantastically busy but maybe she will come and spend time here in the fall (everything is maybe with Kate as so much is happening in her life right now!)

After a couple of years of procrastination I started to write again and I really haven't stopped since. I had fun researching a hero of Lucca named Francesco Burlamacchi who planned to raise a revolt to free the cities of Tuscany and unite them 1546. Sadly he was betrayed and tortured and eventually executed. I looked at why a middle-aged respectable statesman would at his stage of life dream of doing such a thing and I found the key in his love of reading the classics. He is now safely locked in a chapter of a book in honour of my wonderful supervisor. The other contributers are all distinguished historians and my only claim to fame was that I was his last student before he retired, so it was a great privilege for me.

After this I decided to honour another hero: this is a wonderful old dog who has lived on the streets of Lucca for 14 years. His story is also both sad and noble. I have written a book for children and it has been endorsed by my 5 year old granddaughters. Hopefully David's little son Baz may enjoy it when he is older. The illustrations are currently being done by Shira who is a talented artist friend of Kate's.
Finally I have finished a semi-autobiographical book about my research year here in Lucca in 1997. I had kept a detailed diary that year so it was a matter of recounting some of the adventures that happened to me in while I struggled with Italian and archival documents in Siena and Lucca. I am not too sure what I will do with it now!
Currently I am working on a series of walking seminars of Lucca. As it is a fantastic place and it easy to talk about its history.

The bad news is that I lost my camera at the wedding so unfortunately I have no photos and no camera. I feel especially sick about it especially as I lost 1500 photos when my computer did something strange earlier this year. No sympathy from David as he is always telling me BACK UP EVERYTHING REGULARLY! I must say that losing all your photos is like having years of your life erased.

The concert series is going on in Lucca. Last night Alicia Keys (? Spelling) was here in Piazza Grande. At the same time it is the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini who was born in Lucca and so there are lots of concerts of his music too.

Thanks to all who have kindly written and kept in touch. Some of you have visited Italy this year and I hope you have enjoyed it!
Right now it is very HOT! My dog Chelsea is spread out at my feet on the tile floor like a bear rug!
Fabrizio has just brought me a glass of cold wine--viva l'Italia!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Squirrel Wars

I know there are a lot of animal lovers out there, so this is for all of you who are interested in the Hewlett squirrel saga. The original plaster squirrel came from my garden in Windsor, Ontario. When the previous owners left, they took their array of garden ornaments with them but left this rather chewed-up looking squirrel behind. Well, I thought he was rather pathetic. He was unwanted and abandoned by his owners and left all alone in the garden, so I didn't have the heart to throw him away. Then David came to stay and started to move the squirrel around as a joke--so the squirrel woud be peering at me from various unexpected locations. When David left, he instructed all visiting family members to move the squirrel around to tease me. Now he, the squirrel, not David, is quite sinister up close, as you may have seen from to have him peering out from the shower or through the kitchen window at you can give you quite a fright...thus began the squirrel wars. When I moved from Windsor to Lucca I really couldn't bring him with me, so I did the kind thing.....I took him to live with David and Jane. Big mistake! Every time I visit, I find the squirrel hidden somewhere in my room--usually in my bed...yes horrid! At least I thought I was safe in Lucca, but guess what present David and Jane brought me when they came to stay? Ok, not the original squirrel but a bolder, brighter Italian cousin....

Friday, June 15, 2007


Ciao and Wow! Thanks for a variety of comments. Some great questions from the history buffs among you. So FYI the materials from the old Roman and Medieval walls were recycled--some of the stones were pinched to build houses and some were incorporated into the new walls. What did the Medici have against Lucca? Well, in the 16th century, a young, ambitious and clever Cosimo de' Medici came to rule in Florence and set about strengthening his power base and dealing with his enemies. Many malcontents had fled from Florence and were hanging out in neighbouring states such as Siena and Lucca, so, in order to control the threat that they might cause him, Cosimo tried to find a way to take over Lucca--which, by the way was a ripe little plum of a place run by rich silk merchants. Well, Lucca was lucky and escaped his clutches, but Siena was not so fortunate and fell to Medici domination after a prolonged siege in 1555. Actually, I was in Siena yesterday; it is currently being besieged by thousands of tourists.
Now, I am sure you have realized that we are a family of animal lovers. My children spent most of their early summers in England with family who owned dogs, cats, horses and even parrots and all of them own pets--mostly cats--except David, who of course has Mars. I too have a dog. She is quite unique but I suppose all dog owners think that! She is called Chelsea, not after the ex-president's daughter or after the soccer team but Chelsea as in Chelsea BUN, a particularly gooey and sticky but sweet english sugary bun, for those of you who don't know. She was given up by her owners, a free dog to good home, and I happened to be there at the right time and adopted her without hesitation. I have never regretted it, despite some difficult re-structuring of my life round a dog with separation anxiety, which means she has often accompanied me to work, wherever that may have been. My kids say this dog has been more places with me than they have, as she has lived in Italy twice (of course she is bilingual), she has also lived in Toronto, Windsor, Washington State, Ohio and maybe England could be next. She is 14 and her birthday is Feb 14, St. Valentine's Day, and she is all about love. She is half Cocker and half whatever, with a bit of Afghan hound thrown in. Actually, that part of her is in her hair. She is very deaf now and now going blind but she still acts like a puppy. She is very greedy and is now on a vet-instigated diet. She is very happy with the life here, especially when people drop a lot of croissants and pizza crusts. She adores her walks on the wall where she socializes with (well, bosses) other dogs.
Lucca is doggie heaven and there are many dogs here. People ride their bikes with dogs sitting in the front basket; people run and cycle with their dogs round the wall. Every year there is a dog show on the wall and the proceeds go to the local dog shelter and last year Chelsea won the Super Nonna (super granny) category. I was very proud of the gold cup she won but she was only interested in the dog biscuit that came with it. There is a show on TV here with a wonderful police dog who carries out all sorts of amazing feats for his team in the cause of justice, and that is the only programme Chelsea lets me watch in peace, but she is really quite jealous of Rex, as he is called, because he is so talented and so we now have to do a lot of frisbee practice to rebuild her ego...brava Chelsea!