That old saying has been so true. I was glad of my thick Aran sweater over the last weeks here in Tuscany. I guessed June would come in like a bride and she has. The clouds are now billowing like a puffy dress against a blue sky and the orchids and wildflowers are finally pushing their way up through the tufty grass. I was a little lazy and asked my orchid experts on Twitter to identify a few, despite my fuzzy photos.
Check out Jon Dunn’s beautiful book Orchid Summer
Thanks, Jon! I need a better camera, but he came up with Burnt Orchid for the photo on the left and Provence Orchid for the pale flower.
I spotted these on a walk high up to 1,407 metres in the Apennines with my brother and sister-in-law, who chose the worst week, weather-wise, to visit. But this didn’t stop us from enjoying a couple of outings. Always keen to research stories, we drove to an area that saw fierce fighting during WW2: the Coriano and Gemmano ridges. From 4th to 15th September 1944, the British 8th Army made assaults here along the eastern edge of the Gothic Line. I could tell Maurice was particularly moved, as his own father might well have been involved. But that generation seldom shared these facts with their children. At Montegridolfo, there is a small museum with a big heart, run by volunteers and it was humbling to read details of this period. We read dozens of various propaganda posters printed by all sides and looked at items found scattered around the countryside. The elderly man who showed us round was only six years-old when it all took off and he shared a couple of personal incidents. It’s easy to overlook the civilians’ viewpoint and I’m pleased that authors can bring ordinary stories into the open.
Afterwards, we visited the Commonwealth War Cemetery a few kilometres away. This grave touched me. I wondered who had recently left this photograph next to their Canadian soldier.
One week earlier I had visited a delightful gentleman of ninety-nine. Bruno was a POW from very early on in WW2, captured in Egypt and then transported to Nottingham, where he worked on the land. He was born in Montebotolino, the tiny hamlet within walking distance (admittedly a good workout) of where I am writing now, and one of my favourite haunts, as you might know. Bruno is very frail now and I first met him nearly ten years ago when I was on another walk. I came across him pruning his apple trees and after a few minutes of general chitchat, he started to talk to me in English. And then, out came his story. A fascinating account which I am shamelessly using (tweaked and slightly fictionalised) in my next Tuscan novel. He is frail now, but he still has a twinkle in his eye. He told me he liked rice pudding during the war in England and he is looking forward to the party the local Comune will lay on for him when he turns one hundred in January. I don’t think he will mind appearing in my book and I also believe we need to never forget the part ordinary folk played in shaping our futures.
Now, back to writing. I’m over three quarters through the first draft but that is only the beginning. Rigorous editing will follow. Ciao for now!