This year has been a year worthy of reflection so I was excited to discover the best of 2009 blog challenge. Thirty-one “best ___” prompts for each day of the month of December. Here are the first five:
I just love that photo. To me, it makes me think “journey”. We took this photo at the very beginning of our adventure. We’d been in the UK a few weeks, had bought our motorhome and named her “Nettle” and driven her through the English country side very tentatively. We travelled through Ireland and Northern Ireland for a month, drove to Paris to catch up with friends then down to Italy and ended up spending three months there and finding our home away from home in Sicily and then onto Tunisia in North Africa where we are now. Yeah, it’s been pretty good. My partner has blogged about our trip so far in impressive detail on his blog.
Best Restaurant Moment
I’m going to take some creative license here and interpret “best” as “most memorable” – I’m not sure best can really be used to refer to a meal where tentacles are involved. Whilst in the Mt Etna region of Sicily a local by the name of Nucchio took us under his wing and spent seemingly every spare moment he had showing us the sights, taking us to car rallies and making us eat scary things. Neither Mike or I are big on seafood. I’ve only very recently been able to eat fish that’s not battered, deep fried, and served wrapped up in paper with chips.
Once at the restaurant we sat down and didn’t order a thing. Unlike every other restaurant in the world they bring you whatever was caught that day and you eat what you’re given. First course was approximately nine different dishes, including things I swear I never thought I would eat, namely tentacles, oysters, other gooey things in shells and unshelled prawns that smelt funky. It was all surprisingly palatable, except for the funky smelling prawns. Second course was another 9 dishes or so with pasta and risotto thrown in. Nucchio warned us to expect an obscene amount of food and we had fasted in preparation but the pasta pushed me over the edge. Third course was aborted due to the very real threat of exploding and making a mess. I later cursed my non-Sicilian sized stomach when I learned pesce spada was to be had – my new favourite seafood, sword fish. Our relief at not having to put anything else in our mouths was short lived when biscuits and nuts with a small glass of the best lemon slushy I’ve ever tasted was brought out. Seven different bottles of alcohol were placed on our table and I cracked Nucchio up with my baffled expression. Apparently we were in for a serious night of hard drinking. Each one was to be drunk in a particular order. There was pistachio liqueur, grappa (good for digestion and stripping paint), chocolate liqueur, limoncello, lemon cream (my favourite) and some yucky brown bitter tasting stuff made by monks. Seems like a very un-monkish thing to do to me. Naughty monks.
We finished off the night by walking around the lovely mediaeval town and being followed by a cat that sounded like a frog.
Fun Fact to know and tell: the restaurant was in the town where scenes from The Godfather were shot, including the church were he gets married.
Here are my highlights for the time poor:
“When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there… Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken…”
Lines that make my heart go thump:
“And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done… Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit… We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.”
Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed… Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.”
– PAUL HAWKEN
“Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke
My favourite whimsies (no spoilers, just tasters):
“Upon other evenings the gilt lettering upon the drawers proclaimed the contents to be such things as: Mace (Blades), Mustard (Unhusked), Nutmeg, Ground Fennel, Bay Leaves, Pepper of Jamaica, Essence of Ginger, Caraway, Peppercorns and Vinegar and all the other stock of a fashionable and prosperous grocery business. But now the words appeared to read: Mercy (Deserved), Mercy (Undeserved), Nightmare, Good Fortune, Bad Fortune, Persecution by Families, Ingratitude of Children, Confusion, Perspicacity and Veracity. It was as well that none of them noticed this odd change. Mrs Brandy would have been most distressed by it had she known. She would not have had the least notion what to charge for these new commodities…”
“Oak trees can be befriended and will aid you against your enemies if they think your cause is just. Birch woods are well known for providing doors into Faerie. Ash trees will never cease to mourn until the Raven King comes”.
And I love her characterisation of faeries:
“In men reason is strong and magic is weak. With fairies it is the other way round: magic comes very naturally to them, but by human standards they are barely sane.”
Best Night Out
Taking in the sights of London at night with my man and my best girl pal who I hadn’t seen in over a year. Westminster bridge, Jubilee walkway, floodlit Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, #10 Downing Street for a spot of tea with Gordon, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Soho and Oxford Circus. We all wanted to amputate our feet by the end of the night. Good times…