Mar 23 2017

Cat Lady

the Cat LadyI have employed “the Cat Lady” to clean our house.

We hug at the door when she comes in. Her name is Immaculata. She brings me a sweet gift of a purple daisy plant.

She is very small and haunchy, with large pointy ears. Her hair is a matty shade of grey and her son is 45 years old.  First thing she wants to do is climb on the roof and fix two loose tegole (roof tiles) that have been hanging precariously on the edge since the big scirocco wind a few weeks back. I can’t possibly let her creep around up there, no matter how feline she may be, so I do it.

She puts on her slippers and we squat down on the floor in the kitchen to discuss the “electronic broom”. She wants to know if we should fill it with water.

This morning she confessed to writing notes about how to use the vacuum cleaner, but she forgot already. Not that she’s stupid, definitely not, she knows very well how to manipulate a broom. In her bag is a bottle of cleaning liquid, the traditional Italian Marsiglia, which has ” a nice subtle perfume”.

She begins to clean, and I go upstairs to my studio. When I go down again to check her progress, the dinner table is piled with old books…Simon’s books. Crikey. I must say they are coated with grey Skabenga fur.

Right now she’s in the bathroom, from whence a nice soapy smell is wafting out. She needs the ladder to climb up to reach the mirror. I tell her she’s bravissima.

Her sister is a nun and her brother is a Carabinieri. In her small apartment are two large cats. She told me when I went there the other day, to request her services, that a bus crashed into her front door in 1982. Her family lived in the apartment below us when she was a child. Sometimes she goes to Ardea to see her son. About 20kms away.

The books are to be re-organised. Immaculata doesn’t want them packed in under the bookcase on floor level. It’s not hygienic, I noticed a little lip curl when she said that. So they will remain on the dinner table until we have found a more satisfactory place for them to be.

When all is done and it’s time to leave, she gives me a summary of work done, and work outstanding, and our next appointment. She opens the front door makes a little meow and closes it again, repeating my name a couple of times and apologising profusely in case it’s been badly pronounced. Then she digs in her grey bag and pulls out a neatly hand written list. On it is a list of topics, number one “in which of the compartments of the washing machine drawer should the washing liquid go?” She has written the answer; 2, but it’s actually 1, so out comes the pen. Door is opened and shut a couple more times, my name repeated with a purr, list re-consulted, and we discuss the “electronic broom” again, and the problems associated with possible causes. All in all, the parting ceremony is eventually completed but I note her reluctance to leave. I pat her on her fuzzy shoulder and gently coax her off the doorstep.

The house gleams.

There’s a little wisp of fur on the carpet.

Must be from the bookshelf.



Mar 21 2017

Blue Rabbit

Book cover

I am very happy to announce the publication of my children’s picture book “BLUE RABBIT” for our Grandson Michael, it has taken a few months of joyful slog to produce, and will now be available to order if you need a copy for the little one in your life.

Blue Rabbit hopped into mind as the perfect character to be our protagonist and lead us through the African Savannah, being a small, blue, stuffed creature – in sharp contrast to the reality of the indigenous locals.

Blue Rabbit does physically exist, I bought him from a beautiful toy shop in Oslo as a gift for Mikey. Together with the blanket which Great Granny and I crochet’d together, became the stuffing of the home


In the book there are 11 double spread illustrations of African animals: Giraffe, the Pigs, Elephant, Lion, Meerkat, Zebra, Rhino, and a Blue Whale. I chose colours that smack of the African bush, and tried to portray the animals as realistically as I could. The pages are 30 cm x 30 cm, so when the book is open you’ll be looking at a nice double spread  60 cm panorama!

The synopsis goes like this…Blue Rabbit, feeling lonely, forgotten and bored, escapes his box and goes looking for some fun.  He meets different animals, some good and some nasty, then returns home exhausted but contented.

Blue Rabbit goes out

Hopefully the charm of large watercolour illustrations, and the lyrics make this an enjoyable book to read to little children. There are also some “Rap claps” …one of my inventions, where one is required to clap to a short verse based on the latin name of the illustrated animal.

Sneak peak…of just four pages…




“Zebra” said Rabbit; “Your skin is sublime, I just love that crazy design! You walk with a zig zippity-zag, swishing your tail in a fabulous wag. But you look a bit wonkey, like a fat donkey, can I call you Zonkey!”

“Go avay bloo zing, get off my zone! ” said Zebra in a high tone; “or I will zoom-kick you vide to za-uzza-zide, I vill zap you wizz my hoove….Vamooze!

“Really!” Puffed Rabbit; “How terribly rude!”.



Page 11 & 12 Lion Hug

“Dearest Lion, your mane is insane, it must be a devil to maintain?”

Lion replied with a huff; “Are you really just a bag of puffy stuff?”

“RA RA RA HA HAAR, CRUNCH MUNCH, how bizarre!….you are!”


6 Bushpig-Warthog


“ei ei ei ei ei onk onk onk” honked Bushpig; “There comes Warthog! See the warts on his face, bumps all over the place! nobbles on his knees, big white tusks, Oh Please?! He wallows in the mud and farts brown beans.

Me…I’m a bushpig, a loveable thingamajig, I have baggy bristles on my back, ticks hang on like a rucksack, my bright piggy eyes don’t like the light, so I sleep all day and pig out at night.

“OUCH, Bushpig, I must run” said Blue Rabbit; “A FLEA IS BITING ME ON MY BUM!”

RAP CLAP; Pota pota mocha rus, larv larv larva tus. Phaco Phaco cocho rus, afri afri caaanus.



“Hello Blue Whale, what an enormous tail!  You’re so SO big, bigger than huge, You are by far the biggest,” Blue Rabbit enthused.

“I am most perfectly fitting”, said Whale; “Believe me, deep down in the beautiful sea, in this wonderful place, my tail gets more space, and I have two blow-holes on top of my face.

Hey…flotsam! come down! Lets make moody blue sound, you and I can sonic around….swing it from ocean to ocean, in a wave of emotion!”

Said Rabbit, bobbing about; “I’d like to Blue Whale, but my stuff keeps me afloat”.


last page

Each page touches on a characteristics found not only in humans, but also amongst the animal kingdom. Or should I say that the other way around?

The book is available to buy on It takes about a week to get your book, sometimes less. The book is printed in two versions, the large square ART BOOK made with the finest quality thick paper…

OR or a less pricey simplified version, smaller and lighter, and does not have the designs on the page borders.

Buy Blue Rabbit

My wish that floats between the pages is that this book will  bring your children to your lap more often, and during the reading and turning of pages something magical will happen, a certain feeling of togetherness and sharing…love.

It certainly has been a work of love, dedicated to my grandchildren.

rabbit walk

Jan 18 2017

The young Priest.

The young Priest

The young Priest

The young Priest rounds out his words, forming them, each one winging it into the stillness of the Basilica Ottobeuren. His hands hold together in prayer, like a keel they lead him to the high Altar, his white Alb lapping at his feet.

We watch his tall back, dressed in the Chasuble (vestment) woven golden threads and silk embroidered flowers. He comes to stop perfectly in front of the Missal, which is set on a golden stand.

“The altar of gold had seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst was the Son of man, shining like the snow by the whiteness of His garments, and more brilliant than the sun by reason of the splendour of His face.” (Apoc. 1.) written by John.

The Priest begins the ceremony, his hair evenly curled around his head. We watch his mesmerising face perfectly enhance his voice.  In harmony he performs the ritual, every move considered and reduced to gestures of utmost beauty, a dance, an art.

Above, painted on the Altar, a Baroque mass of pink and white clouds float. A giant spectacle of God and Jesus, amidst the angels. Their billowing hair and satin gowns covering and uncovering in the celestial wind. Jesus pokes his finger in his sword wound while a stream of blood falls and splatters the blue globe, our world below.

Christian and Traudl, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, sit on a pair of red velvet chairs on the stage. We, the family, sit in two semi-circular rows behind them, while the vaults and arches soar, high as the sky. Rainbow light falls in pools, onto the cold floors in the vast space of the Basilica.

The young Priest turns to and from the Altar, which is both a tomb and a table, in remembrance of the Eucharist and burial of Our Lord. The white linen table cloth and the winding-sheet of the embalming.

Singing and praying, the family choir singing and praying. Susanne sings beautifully high on the baroque balcony while Seppi plays the great Organ with all his skill and its great might.

The body of Christ, the white wafer rises up over the Priests earthly head like a moon. Round and straight it goes up and is held by his bony white cold hand. Fingers red at the tips.

He lets the wafer sink slowly down, and then lifts with both ballerina hands, the golden chalice. Offered up toward the Crucifix, it hovers, suddenly full of blood.

Some of us are permitted to eat and drink, not all of us, only the purified. But all are aware of the grace. The young Priest morphs into a vessel, lifting us from the dust into a realm of light and candles, this atmospheric world of shining and singing, clear and vibrant and bright. He  becomes the needle point that pulls us, twisted threads, through the white linen cloth, into an embroidered scene, knotted together in the grand scheme. Smooth and three-dimensional.

God is here.

In that sacred place, the Priest speaks of the holy couple, and our family. I hear the children’s names pronounced and float around. Blessed they are, and my heart soars at the sound of Megan, Brandon, Tyrone and Michael. Their names spoken and vibrating though this gracious church. David, Chiara, Elias, Gabriel, Leopold, Florian. I think of our newest little soul growing daily, and of Nardia, Alexandra and Stefano.

Diamond Wedding

Diamond Wedding


Altusried is certainly a cold place. Funny how we dash from room to room, banging the doors behind us to prevent the heat escaping to the halls. Simi and I are here alone tonight. We locked the door to the cellar the minute we arrived. We went up to the attic to check the state of the faraway room. But couldn’t find the light switch so ran down again after seeing a little pair of buck horns and old things lying in the gloomy corner. Only the lounge room is semi-warm. I have my sleeping bag wrapped around me. We are delaying going to bed on account of the cold. Last night I slept in the yellow china room under a big old duvet, but the cold came up through the mattress, so half of me was warm and half was cold like the moon. The two small lakes, still and frozen outside the window.



Dec 5 2016

Picture my studio

The ceiling of my studio is held up by large wooden beams, whole trees whittled by an axe. They hold up the low sloping roof of Italian terracotta tiles, those simple kind that lie together, held only by their weight in clay. Small weeds and mosses grow between them. Most visitors to my studio nervously notice a certain atmosphere created by flickering shadows and sounds that play amongst these rafters not only in the evening.

Against the back wall, a wooden cupboard stands, holding it’s shelves like a waiter. The smell of turpentine and crayon wafts out when I open the squealing doors. The sound reminds me of a creature I once heard in Africa. There’s a brass key in the lock that turns with a big thud.

Sometimes I paint my table with olive oil, when it starts to look worn out. Simon gave it to me for my birthday a couple of years ago after the children went away to study and left me this place for my work. It has metal legs joined in ‘Eiffel tower’ style. I put my feet up on the crossbars when I’m sitting.  The table is tall enough to give the impression that it’s not for sitting around eating at – it’s exclusively for working on.  However, I don’t get to sit much when I’m working on a large piece. I must stand in front of my wonky easel.

Against the wall is a marble holy-water font, that once belonged in a Catholic Church. A man from Naples sold it to us at an antique market. It has the form of a flower with a hole drilled through its bottom. Our local blacksmith made a stand for it, and above it there’s a brass tap in the wall, taking the shape of a dragons head. Water splashes in there many times per day when I wash off paint and pastel dust. Sadly the marble is no longer frosty white, but more a painterly version of it…like an old garden statue. Just that the moss is actually pigment.

Our water is clearly sanctified, as we live in the Acqua Santa quarter of town. It’s pure mineral water with a bit of fizz from the volcano, and some radon too. There’s a Church in the rock below our apartment which has a very long history. Water flows under the altar, where one is encouraged to bend down and scoop cupfuls of it through a holy crack in the floor. Each year, at the Saints day, we are all given a little bottle of this particular miracle water to drink. Except last year we were told to ‘drink at your own risk’. Know not why.

Back to my studio…  above the sacred basin, there is a carved panel that was once so covered in paint it looked like a badly moulded Christmas decoration. We bought it from the Naples man for very little money. Megan and I chipped off the paint and found a master work beneath, consisting of two detailed fat-faced babies with feathery wings, floating amongst ribbons and swooping garlands of flowers. A very charming piece of art.

The studio is light and bright thanks to a wall of glass sliding doors. They open up onto a lopsided terrace, where I grow an olive tree, and a sad lemon tree, and lots of fat succulents in pots. The railings are very old wrought iron which need painting. Here we have a second marble font, slightly bigger than the other. Four men carried it up the steps after an failed attempt with a crane. Small children are able to clamber in and out of it, thanks to it’s rounded edges and flat bottom. However, this terrace is terrifyingly high off the cobbled street, where you can’t take your eyes off a playing kid.

But if you don’t have a kid then one is able to cast one’s eyes around and see the lip of our volcano, covered by a forest of oak trees. The crater holds a very blue lake, where we swim during the summer, almost daily. Anyhow, I’m very happy with this green view, especially when the sun shines, or a storm passes, or a mist fills the valley, and our neighbours call out to one another in that typical Italian singsong manner while I paint.

More to tell, but that’s the end for today.


This blog is follow-able, and so is my painting… have a look at for arty gifts, or, for real top quality prints, or facebook or Instagram where Nardia is beautifully sharing my work.

Wishing you all a creative and happy holiday.

Leanne Talbot for short.


Oct 26 2016

Stained with light


It has been said that no man is an island unto himself, that we are each a piece of the continent.

Island Definition: isolated, adrift, eroding, infirm.

The good things about treasure islands are:

One needs a hat. Or an umbrella, one or the other. Quite annoying, but funny nevertheless.

Sunrise and Sunset, I have always loved the ceremony of these two sacred events, they glorify the arc of day. And like all sacred celebrations, one is compelled to drink something delicious like champagne.

Waking up to a laugh of morning sky. Paint me a halo, I say puffy-faced, and get up to drink Italian coffee, and walk out to the edge of the veranda to watch the early boats coming into port, and sailors heading out.

Sunshine hard on the eastface rocks, till it rolls over to burn the slipping cliffs. Baking it all day long like a loaf of warm crackled bread.

Ψe are funny, Island People, sitting at the corner bar chatting into fizz-gold goblets of wine, us, giggling, all touched and stained orange by evening as she pulls her glittering self over the horizon into the night.

Salt-crusted lighthouse. Brave tower on it’s precarious ledge, beaming over our heads, pointing out invisible sailors. Casting it’s mighty warnings, and taking nothing in return.

Mini Pilgrimages, wandering starry-eyed, along the evening esplanade, arm in arm, the upcoming moon soothing our hair. Spooning us to sleep.

Lying our chalky bodies on the naked beach to drift, wide-eyed, blinded by the ridiculous immenseness of the sea. A roar of foam at the surface then under the mirror sheen, a sudden suffocating silence of clicks and suspended green dullness. Abyss after creature-filled abyss. At once gives birth to life, and rips to it to death.

Gasping a deep breath of dusty Sirocco wind, look up, and sighing-out into the weather. One hardly considers that blue, heatless screaming stratosphere above, which gives into floating foreverness. Bottomless, endless, infinite in all directions.

This mighty hellish Paradise above our wobbly heads, zigzagging a violent sky dance all the way to ticky tacky…you and I, happy with a fishy pasta lunch, as we roll through this fantastically exploding universe. Alive and kicking under the sun’s turbulent hiss of nuclearic vomitations.

How beautifully we admire our little darling turquoise jewel, this island this Earth. Blabbing: ‘Che suggestivo!’ ….while slapping at bloody mosquitoes!’

Heartstone and final headstone too. Cling to it limpet, in good company with life. Trees, mosses and seagulls, hibiscus and you. We can stand, and cry for fresh rain, and mark the wind with a finger lick.

Chin up, you turn to swing your yellow cotton skirt and smile, hat tilted to shade the spark in your sea-coloured eyes.


Jun 9 2016

Camino de Santiago de Compostela


Camino de Santiago-4

Day 1 : Leaving León


…It’s lunch time already and we are sitting in a dark hostel bar filled with noisy men. Marmi and I have eaten a huge plate of ribs, and gulped down a large tankard of Amstel lager. Meals with Marmi are always a pleasure, she is limitlessly enthusiastic about food, and is also enthusiastic about this pilgrimage, although that might be waning a little this morning.

{My enthusiasm shines in the act of absolute mindless wandering, and the search for meaningful photographs to illustrate the WAY.  It’s not a true pilgrimage in the traditional sense of the word, but I’m hoping to find something}

This hostel bar is our first stop, at San Miguel del Camino, after a 12 km walk through an industrial zone on the outskirts of León. The day began with an intensive search for our CREDENCIAL DE PELLIGRINO, the special little passport which we need to have stamped along the way, to prove that we’ve done the pilgrimage to Santiago. We asked a nice clean nun at a hostel who tried to find someone to supply us with the passport, but was not successful. She sent us onwards to another Alberge (hostel) where a pavement-washing man very kindly sold them to us for 2 euro each. Our first stamp was made at our B&B Blanca by Blanca herself before we headed out, by way of the bus station.  The next bus was due in 2 hours and it was already 11:00. I shooed poor Marmi out of the station, over the ancient bridge, and along the WAY marked by brass shells in the paving and yellow arrows on almost every surface you can imagine.

{I just had to get walking}

Camino de Santiago- León

León, what a beautiful clean city centre, clustered around the majestic Cathedral.

The enormous square is washed down with a high pressure hose, a practice only seen in Spain. 

Lunchtime over, our afternoon attempt at walking lasts just a few steps after Marmi’s backpack grows too heavy, and the road too boring to be worth a painful afternoon. We find an abandoned looking bus stop (which the hostel/bar guy said didn’t exist), but there is no printed schedule to be seen, so we wander on in search of help, only to find a sign for an Alberge. We follow the arrow to where a nice young woman volunteer calls up the bus company for the timetable and we retrace our steps to the main road, stopping for a quick cáfe con leche along the way. The bus arrives, we wave madly, and board for ASTORGA.

{Looking out of the big roaring bus window at the passing landscape is rather sad, but the days stretch out ahead and the kilometres stretch out even further, so we’ve got to skip some to make it to Santiago in time}

Astorga is a very old town with a very old creaky Alberge. At least 50 stinky, snoring pilgrims lie half-naked on bunks in the attic. Our host shows us to our double bunk in the middle of the dormitory and we open our sleeping bags and lay them out. A sore footed girl on the next bed says the place is too expensive – Euro 10, compared to Euro 5 at the municipal hostel “which is much nicer by the way”. She’s going to transfer there tomorrow until her feet heal.

The town is full of restaurants, bars and cavernous chocolate shops. We settle into a Michelin recommended sticker-in-the window place, Hotel-Spa Cuidad De Astorga, with chequered floors and marble tables.  A really good glass of red wine and a cin-cin to our first day of walking the camino. The lettuce heart salad with tuna is crunchy and delicious, and Marmi orders 1000 embryonic sardines on toast (called Neonate in Italy).

{I can’t bring myself to eat future fish no matter how exquisitely delicious they are}

We arrive back in the enormous dormitory after dinner, and see some empty bunks near the window, so we smartly collect our gear and transfer ourselves there. The sore girl joins us. However, I can’t get to sleep amid the snores, farts and loud talking that goes on until the early hours when people begin to clatter, zip and bump around in the dark, while preparing to leave for another day of walking.

Day 2 : Wandering worries

The toilets are mostly occupied by men, and the sound of general farting and big splashing of poo makes me gag! The smell is not good either. I have to elbow my way between huge under-panted people to find a basin to brush my teeth. Everyone has to be out of the Alberge by 8 am.

{This morning I’m feeling a bit anxious about my lack of  precision planning. Maybe it’s a lack of sleep, but Marmi has put a lot of importance on this trip and left the ‘where and how’ up to me. (I’m used to having Simon and his guidebook around!). Now I feel responsible for her trip too, and I’m afraid to be person-pleaser, who doesn’t please at all}

{With the unfortunate combination of a pinchy backpack and a hurty seam in her sock, I thought it probably wiser to forego the section over the Cruz de Ferro which would take 3 days to walk, and it happens to be the only part of the trip that I have actually researched, even booked a B&B. However, there is no bus on that route to rescue us if we get into trouble}

{I’m trying not to irritate my friend with my vegetarianism, or walking too fast, or  choice of Alberge, or the right eating places etc. (my kids know what I mean). Every step offers delicate choices to be made. I purposefully did not plan the journey because I wanted mystery and spontaneity to highlight the path. But a lack of planning could turn out to be disastrous, or it could lead us to a great experience. I don’t know. This not knowing feeling is rather scary}

{So we, or I cancel the B&B,  and feeling a bit disappointed, decide to skip us over to Ponferrada this morning by bus, and begin today’s walk from there instead. In the limited time we have there is no way we can walk all the way}

Camino de Santiago-10

See the eye and teardrop in the clouds at the Templar Castle?

We arrive in the small city of Ponferrada, and march up the hill to have a look at the ancient Knights Templar castle dating back to 1200’s and march back down again to follow the yellow arrows out of town. With a bit of critical load shedding from Marmi’s pack (pills out of their foil, into a bottle) and shoelace-tying along the river we head out of town. Other happy pilgrims go past us, especially while we’re sitting at a pilgrim bar gorging on a plate of fried eggs and bacon.

{I’m so thrilled to be out of the city, on the way at last. Sunshine, birds singing in the trees, nice people, I’m simply happy. The European storks are clattering their beaks and standing in their high nests along the way}

{I wonder when our next baby will be delivered?}

Camino de Santiago-11

There’s a dog looking strangely at me

Not far down the road Marmi makes a good decision; to leave our backpacks at an Alberge, to be transported by taxi to our destination. I’m guessing Cacabelos is a good destination, by what’s printed on the distance list, so we pay in advance and leave the bags with a toss of our hips. Walking under the sun, side by side past low growing vineyards, green rolling hills, blue mountains in the distance – feeling great! Roses and cherries grow all along the way.


pink roses

We go through the villages; Columbrianos, Fuentes Nuevas, Camponaraya, and finally into Cacabelos, where a huge billboard says:” hotel full”. I panic a bit at the thought of another sleepless night in a smelly dormitory with 50 snorers. Our bags wait at the municipal hostel which turns out to be a rather nice place – my relief is audible! The little wooden cabins each sleep two, but share a long roof curving around the outside of the church. We shower and wash our hair in the ladies only ablutions [clean], take a short rest, wash undies, put on our best clothes, chat to some Romanian girls, then go off  to look for supper in town. We plonk down at the first restaurant we find, which is very friendly and pleasantly situated. Paella and red wine, followed by a delicious cheese-cakey thing (on the house). Back at the Alberge a young couple share the cherries they’d picked along the way. Fresh, crispy, sweet cherries.

{Everyone is automatically friends on this pilgrimage}

Camino de Santiago-22

My best harem pants at sunset

{When you only have two outfits it’s easy to choose what to wear}

Back in our little wooden cabin preparing for a comfy sleep. But a loud snore from next door makes us look at each other with raised eyebrows. Followed by a very much louder THNORG. We shriek with laughter and run out of the cabin to the office where we beg the clerk to please give us another cabin. He kindly does (because we’re ladies he says), and so we quickly gather up our stuff and creep over to the other end of the row of cabins in the dark, where we occupy two. I sleep deeply. Marmi doesn’t sleep at all.

{Seems we take turns snoring}

Camino de Santiago-19

Municipal hostel in Cacabelos.

Day 3: Shrine stones

After a nice full breakfast in the hotel bar, we decide that a bus ride is necessary, as Marmi has a very sore neck from the weight of her backpack. So we stand impatiently at the bus stop for about 15 minutes before brave/suffering Marmi gives the thumbs up to walk on, following the yellow arrows again.

{Thank goodness we do, it’s such a beautiful area}

Camino de Santiago-25

{Walking brings up thoughts of the past, present and future in one big tumbling emotional cloud. And when you’re walking with a good listener it all comes pouring out. We put some stones on the milestone shrine on top of a hill in honour of our unborn babies, and had a little sob there. A very poignant moment}

Walked in deep thought until Villafranca de Bierzo.

Camino de Santiago-26

waving grasses and low vines, Mother Earth looking pretty

holy door

 The Holy Door (East door) of special churches is open to anyone who wants to pass through and be cleansed only during a Jubilee year. But Villafranca’s romanesque church door was locked.

notice the carved shell above the door

{On a pilgrimage like this, one cannot escape the history. Stories about this pilgrimage date back to 970, all begin for religious reasons, but end with soul reasons}

Here is a link to the Jubilee information, lucky to be doing this during a Jubilee year.

{Wish I had looked this up before the walk…but then again, freedom from preconceived thoughts allows the messenger be heard without confusion. Here is a quote from Pope Francis speech when he declared the Jubilee of Mercy…}

This period in history is a time where the faithful “need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential,” he said.

“This is the time for mercy.”

The aim of Jubilee Year of Mercy is to encourage the faithful to “welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world,” the Pope continued.

These signs of God’s tenderness are especially offered to the suffering, the alone, the abandoned, and those “without hope of being pardoned or feeling the Father’s love.”

“It is the favourable time to heal wounds,” he stressed, “a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Camino de Santiago-21

Brass shells along the way.

Enjoying some local red wine for lunch, with some salami and coppietta which Marmi brought with her from Italy. We’re perched at a bar on a steep hill opposite the Castle in Villafranca del Bierzo. We’ve collected quite a lot of stamps in our “credencial de camino” by now. Some from Church’s, others from Alberge’s, some from bars.

{A lot from bars actually}

A short tramp downtown has us searching for a bus stop for tender Marmi after 8kms of walking with the pack. The very imposing looking Alberge, Convent of the Padres Paúles, tempts us inside to ask for information and a stamp. A man immediately offers to drive us to Trabadelo, leaving in one hour. The barman tells us he owns this place. Marmi slinks over to the corner for a nap while I check the map and drink my favourite cerveza San Miguel (which originates in the Philippines I believe). After an hour the man’s wife appears and puts us in her car. She is also the post officer, and her car is loaded with a large pot, minced meat, lettuces and raw chicken. She offers that we stay in her hostel at Trabadelo, 9 kms on, but it’s too early to stop now and I persuade Marmi to pilgrimage for another 5 kms to Portela.

{no mercy this time}

The path takes us through a green ravine where a fast running river entertains us with the sound of waterfalls. The highway flies overhead on concrete bridges and through tunnels. At Portela I’m a bit concerned to find only a truck stop and ugly hotel servicing the highway. But a little further along, tugging Marmi a bit, we find El Peregrino, a modern little pilgrim hostel. They offer us a nice simple room with a bunk bed…and single bed…and our own bathroom. All spick and span. Poor Marmi is in agony with a sore hip. She takes anti-inflammatories.

{Pill grim}

Camino de Santiago-15

 follow the yellow arrows. They are painted on everything along the way.

{I get out my little water-colour paint box and decorate our Jacobean shells. All the pilgrims have them attached to their backpacks. I don’t know why the image of an eye pops into my mind, but it won’t go away, even with some fierce internal argument. The eye idea forces it’s way onto my shell, and I succumb to painting it.

On Marmi’s shell I paint the two of us walking, which I found much more interesting. However, the eye looked at me and didn’t blink. Very persistent image indeed.

{I’m baffled}


my shell with an eye, lying on my manila paper leather-bound diary, which I religiously fill with scrawl at every opportunity

Big grey clouds start to accumulo-numbus overhead. Supper in the dining-room consists of; a large green salad topped with asparagus and tuna, a whole trout with chips and red pimentos, and a deliciously sweet and cinnamoned rice pudding. Marmi chooses macaroni bolognese which she says is delicious, stew, and ends with a disappointing cheese cake.

It begins to rain.


{HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY to my hero son Brandon. Called him earlier and they’re planning a celebratory dinner with Tyrone & Alexandra, Carl & Cate, Phil & Andrea. I had sent a food parcel (from local Coles) and drink voucher as my contribution to the party. Thinking about BIRTH days and how having a baby is very much a soul thing, a direct connection to the creative source. Not many other life experiences have the same power as giving birth. Thinking of Bubbs, how cute he is, and how seriously interested he is in everything. Grabbing hair, noses, ears. His laugh is so magical, it sprinkles my sky with stars…my little Compostela}

{The name Compostela comes from “composed of stars”. The Way follows the Milky Way…from east to west}

Day 4 : Soggy feet

For breakfast we head back down the road to the ugly hotel, hoping to catch a bus today. The breakfast is noisy and expensive, overrun by two busloads of tourists. The bar lady tells us; “it’s Saturday today, so there is no bus service”. In desperation Marmi asks if she can join the tour group, but no luck. So nothing to do but struggle on in the rain.

{Secretly I’m happy to walk but feel bad for Marmi}.

Camino de Santiago, Marmi-22

My plastic poncho rips in half when I put it on, so I’m stealing Marmi’s umbrella. Heading out to O Cebriero, the hills steepen and the rain pisses down. 8 kms of wet green grass, mud and stones, we eventually splash into a little Albergue El Beso Ecologico for a delicious hot pancake filled with hummus, cheese and home-grown salads. Try to drink very strong mint tea, but give up half way. All vegetarian YAY!!! It’s SOGGY FEET day today. Take off the wet stuff, and wait for the promised hot soup to be made by the nice lady who’s chopping up vegetables. Marmi puts on her shorts because her jeans are wet. She has been a champion up the hill.

Camino de Santiago-45{I bought a pair of earrings, blue stones with some little silver crosses dangling off}

Marmi buys a pink scarf to wrap around her legs. The barman won’t start the fire yet.

Camino de Santiago-42

a non rainy moment, in full kit

We valiantly throw ourselves out of this cosy place into the rain and head up the hill to O Cebriero. (The place that Simon said we should try to see). We crest the mountain into Galicia, the province of Santiago. Views from up here are spectacular. Green meadows, woods and valleys, laced by water-colour blue mountains on the horizon. I take the deepest breath of billowing air suffused by the scent of the ocean.

Camino de Santiago-39

{The highest hills are covered in pink Heather, so I know my mother is following me. Wish she was here, she could easily do this walk so far}


Over the crest and Oooo Cebriero! It’s an ancient village enveloped in mist. Giant clouds move in our direction.

Camino de Santiago-41

We’ve done 14.6 kms, and it’s getting late, but there are no beds available at any of the Alberge here. We search from door to door but no luck, so I ask a nice lady called Martha who works in the church, and she says she will order us a taxi to take us to the next available hostel along the camino.


Round stone huts with thatched roofs squat amongst dozens of tourists.

Three South Koreans join us for the ride, and we arrive at a very rustic Alberge amidst a shower of gusty rain. Some chickens and huge dogs sit on the doorstep. An old lady holds my hand. Alberto, who has a few teeth, shows us to a room with 2 beds. We are delighted. The others all go into the dormitory. We pay double for the privacy (10 euro).

Albert proudly shows me into his kitchen, lifts the lids off the pots so I can see the ‘menu’. I tell him we will eat a bit of everything thank you. He does all the work around here. Cook, barman, hotelier, clean up, wash dishes…everything. Marvellous Albert.

Marmi is getting very good at remembering her school Spanish. I rely on my Italian to get me by. The guests all sit at a long table, some Italians watch and yell at the soccer match on TV. An Icelandic man who was once an engineer, tells us that his wife asked him if he liked his job, and he said he didn’t, so he went back to school to learn psychology. He is celebrating this evening because he got top marks for his exams, top in the country…mind you. We pour our glasses full of red wine and make a cin-cin to him. Everyone has easy access to a bottle of red wine on the table. A Danish mother and son sit on our left. The son (adult) asks Marmi what that folded umbrella is on the table, and we fall about laughing at his goofy question.

Megan sends me lots of encouraging messages. She has had a hard week at work, guiding people on a 17 km walk through rain, with train strikes to complicate things, and carrying a lot of stuff for others. Much more than us!

Mother sent an sms to ask if I’d seen any angels yet. Maybe I’ve looked at them but I haven’t seen any yet.

Marvellous Albert brings us potato & leek soup, roughly chopped, pasta with chorizo sauce, a delicious tender meat stew, and cake. So much for my vegetarianism. The bread here is very good. The wind is screaming at the window and rain is gusting down. Heavy mist wraps a veil around us. Our place is called Alto do Poio. Talk at the table is rain tomorrow. Not sure if I can coax Marmi out into the elements again. At least her feet stay dry in her new shoes, whereas I squelch in mine. We put our wet stuff on the heater to dry overnight. The sheepdogs guard the house. When I return from the bathroom, there is Marmi, pants half way down, with the window blind contraption in her hand. Caught red-handed in the act of breaking the window blind HA! We laugh hysterically.

Day 5 : Down in the mud

After a night of various levels of snoring between the two of us, we have a good fresh eggy breakfast at the long table with the other pilgrims. Off they all go into the rain, but we extend our coffee in front of the fire. At 8.30 we throw ourselves out and hunch our wet way along the road. Mud, stones and cow pats all the way.

The weather starts to clear up a bit, but as soon as we put away the plastic, along comes another shower.



We chat to a sweet Swedish girl but she soon tired of our slow pace and goes on. The path snakes downhill through farms lined with very old oak trees, cow pastures, stone walls and sheds with mossy slate roofs.


Camino de Santiago-47





{I’m loving being outside in the green}

We reach the tiny village of Triacastela for lunch, after a 12 km downhill stumble. Collapse time for Marmi, she doesn’t often lose her smile but right now it’s lost. After a large steak and chips, the smile is back and the owners of the bar order a taxi for us. An oldish lady puts us in her car and drives us off to Sarria without much further ado.

{I took advantage of the free wifi and booked us into a hostel with great reviews on Luckily I did, because our nice taxi lady drove us to the door and we have a perfect little room with SHEETS on the beds! My sleeping bag is sopping wet and so are my shoes}.

{Checking the map for tomorrow’s walk to Portomarin, but Marmi doesn’t seem too keen. She wants sleeping pills! My plan is to get going early – 3,5 kms to Viley, 0,5 Barbadelo, 1,5 Mercado, 2,3 Pena Leiman, 1 Cortinas, 1 Lavandiera, 1 Brea, 1 Morgade, 0,5 Ferreiros, 1 Mirallos, 1 Rozas, 2 Cotarelo, 0,5 Moutras, 2,5 Vilacha, 2,5 Portomarin. All together 20,5 kilometres}

camino-14 our hostel in Sarria

Attending Mass in the Catholic church in the historical part of Sarria. The priest blesses us pilgrims on the Camino. There is an interesting collection of Madonna statues in here; The Virgin in Blue robes, the pregnant Virgin, the Virgin Mother, a very commanding Virgin with her hand pointing to the horizon, one very sweet faced Virgin with a crown perched on her head, another one with her arms outstretched, and finally one dressed in black…The Madonna Doloroso. She deals with pain, death and grief. The crone (crown), so very important that she wears black velvet ornately decorated with gold lace. We shouldn’t forget about her.

{I’ve been looking for a sign of an angel, but nothing has caught my attention yet}

We’re having dinner in a hip Italian restaurant…well hippy actually. A group of Italian women come in and sit at the next table, a cat runs under their legs and one of the women jumps up and runs out screaming very loudly “NON MANGIO QUI”… I’m not eating here! So they all got up and left. We drink local wine and some Italian cheeses which cost a lot.

Day 6 : EYE see

Slept well, but today the weather forecast is rather bleak with a forecast of more rain. Humpff. So much for my plan. Instead, we walk downtown to the bus station and hop on a bus for Lugo, a bigger town off the camino route, where the busses go. There we can find a bus for somewhere closer to Santiago. The ticket man tells us we have to wait 1,5 hours for our connection, so we stomp into town to have a look around and get our credencials stamped at the cathedral. At the door a robed lady tells us that this is the church of the EYE !!!, and takes us to the Sacristy for our stamp. It’s a large room, very ornate and special. Marmi and I laugh in amazement at the eye connection, and I get all excited, and rush off to explore the church in a flurry of curiosity. Meaning, meaning, I need meaning!

Camino de Santiago2-4 Camino de Santiago2-6 Mass is playing. While the priests sing I try to make a donation to Saint Lucia (she had her eyes poked out by the Romans but they grew back again) but the coin slot is blocked. I take that as a sign that she’s not the one. There is a huge overly ornate altar of the Madonna, decorated with countless babies flying around her.  What does that have to do with seeing?

Camino de Santiago2-8

{My eye remains a secret}

The bus takes us down to Lavello. On the map it looks like a good point where the road and camino path intersect. Just 15 kms to Santiago from here, which is a safe distance I imagine. The idea is to walk with a possible overnight stop along the way, and our grande finale entrance to the city tomorrow. However, the path gets shorter as we go, and soon we’re tramping into the city fringe. Lunch break at a rambling place that looks like a cement factory. I choose something which turns out to be a large flatbready thing with an omelette inside, all smeared with melted cheese and bacon. Delicious. Freshly squeezed orange juice is the standard drink along the Way.

The last bit into San Tiago, is a matter of escaping the rain, and finding coffee. While I connect to the wifi at the coffee shop I send a message to our B&B host, with whom we are booked in for two nights, (tomorrow and our final night), to ask if we can come and stay tonight as well. There is no response.

{I’m very excited to see the cathedral and feel those impending triumphant emotions beginning to rise}.

However, Marmi is not happy to be finishing at the 90 km mark, and wants to add another 10 kms to our distance tally, so we can qualify for a Compostela certificate. Apparently we need a minimum of 100 kms total. She asks a girl at a hostel for the nearest bus stop, so we can catch a bus out of town, possibly go somewhere south to take the path that comes from Lisbon into Santiago. It’s another camino altogether. I’m not keen, like a horse close to home, who just wants to run to the stable and eat hay. So with only 100 m to the finish line and no mercy at all, I make a dash for it and miserable Marmi is forced to follow.

santiagoshell{Amazing, incredible, beautiful cathedral. Golden shells lead us to the prize}

Camino de Santiago2-28

back of the cathedral

the front is being restored


We are not allowed inside with our backpacks, so we go into the information shop instead. A girl behind the desk is offering tours to Finisterre and Muxia. Those are the places on the west coast, the finis – terre (end of earth), and Muxia, where St. James the Great was washed up. The story goes like this; Once upon a time he was beheaded in Jerusalem by King Herod after having spent some time preaching in Spain. A boat, skippered by an angel brought his body back, but a storm rose up and wrecked the boat. St. James was washed ashore covered in shells.

{It’s probably blasphemous to wonder if his head washed up at the same time as his body, or is it still… you know… rolling in the deep?}

St. James

This could be an image of St. Francis of Assisi, because he apparently also walked the camino, which is called the Frances way (French way). However most images of St. James look like this, as if he too walked in sackcloth robes with a gourd of water attached to his walking stick. Hence the blur.

Now we have tickets for the tour to Finisterre tomorrow morning. It is decided to catch a taxi to the B&B since neither of us know exactly where it is. Although my app gives me a pretty exact indication. I must admit it’s nice to relax into a cab. We turn up at the B&B bar and are relieved to hear that we have a bed to sleep in. In the meantime our funny host gives us a welcome drink, cerveza of course, and a type of delicious pizza to eat. Then he does a few tango moves with Marmi before showing us to our room, where we collapse into snores. Some more than others.

Day 7 : Throwing a stone

Early up, breakfast and a short waddle to the bus stop where we join six other tourists for the trip to Muxia. We disembark after an hour’s drive at an old church perched on the rocks facing west over the Atlantic ocean. We are allowed to spend 45 minutes here. The church is full of models of boats, meant as protection for the fishermen. We can see them by peeping through a little hole in the door. Our guide explains that the sea is very dangerous, and in 1998 a large oil tanker split in two and all the oil washed up here. Concerned people came from all over the world to scoop up the mess, wash the gulls and scrub the rocks. Thanks to them, the environment is pristine once again. Thank you.


A woman threads the lace while we watch. I couldn’t resist buying a lacy bib for Bubba – not that he will like it, I’m sure he will happily give it to his sister/cousin.


writing my memoirs

Now is the time for leaving my stone that I’ve carried from home in my pocket. It’s a smallish thing but quite heavy. I think Simon brought it from South Africa. Anyway, it was the right size and weight to carry around for a week. I walk alone, down the giant rocks to the edge of the dark sea where the waves are crashing, and fling my stone into the prettiest rock pool.  A wave washes over it and leaves it sparkling for a second before it tumbles deeper. I think of the thing I’m leaving there, and by leaving it, take something away only I know.

{a secret}

Last call for the bus, and off we go again, to Finisterre. The lighthouse is very important, as you can imagine. Apparently many pilgrims come here to burn their boots at the end of their long walk, which usually takes about 35 days if you keep going strong.

Finisterre-4 Finisterre-5 Finisterre-6 Finisterre-7

0,00 km milestone

One of the ladies on the bus asks the guide if we can stop at the beach on the way back, to anoint her feet. We run along the sand and I find a Jacob/James/Tiago/ shell, actually I find two, one of which I give to the solo Korean man. He took it with both hands and a nod and smile. I think he liked it.


finding my true Jacob shell


The last of the brass, at San Tiago Cathedral.

My story is not finished, I still need to find the meaning of the eye.

We arrive back in the city and go to mass in the cathedral. It’s a grand affair, anything grander I can’t imagine. The gold, the robes and flowers, the many priests, the pews full of pilgrims. Organ music blasts forth from the strange pipes that protrude over the aisle. About 8 churchmen dressed in red velvet cloaks take hold of an almighty rope hanging from a contraption high up around the base of the dome, and they all pull down. So begins the swinging of the huge urn that hangs high above the altar. The silver urn swoops up and around in a circle, then high along the nave, swooshing incense as it goes. The red men heave, and it swings further and further, always swooping back over their heads, filling the air with mist. Pilgrims stand and take videos with their phones, holding them up as if they are worshipping God. I do the same.

I’m not going to show you a picture, you must to go there to see it.

Afterwards, we take ourselves over to the Pilgrim office to see about a certificate. Marmi is very keen for this. I think she is mustering up her many and varied charm tactics to win us the paper. Our number comes up and we go to the appropriate desk where a nice young man takes a look at our Credencials and says we don’t qualify for a certificate. He explains: “it is necessary to walk the full 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago, but you can do it nicely next time”. He stamps our Credencials and we depart, Marmi looking glumly at me. I don’t care for a certificate, the experience is enough for me. But I do feel responsible. I didn’t know it was obligatory to do the final 100 kms. So there you have it, ignorance is a sin.

{the rule is written in the Credencial del Peregrino, in Spanish….so not knowing Spanish is also a sin}

IMG_8836…and that’s the end.

{No it’s not. I need to find out why an eye}

Day 8 : Revelations

At the risk of sounding over zealous, I must now scribe the latest revelation. After a long and interesting tour of the Pilgrim museum, staring at any and every eye on statues and paintings with no sign at all, except one photograph of the figure at the end of the aisle in the cathedral. She is kneeling down against a pillar, facing the altar.

Because of the restoration, it’s not possible to access the main entrance, but I had knelt down and looked at her yesterday evening while at mass. We go outside and while I am telling Marmi that my mother is asking if I’ve seen an angel…I see on the wall …this! angel

That little magic moment encourages me to go back to church and have another look at the stone figure under the scaffolding. Goodness knows why. We both get down on our knees and look under the paper blockade, and there she is.kneeling  But her eyes are closed.

Maybe the message is about the third eye? However, since she is facing the altar I head off down there to see what I can find. Most interesting are two statues, one on either side of the altar of the mother of St. James, Salome and father, Zebadee. Poor things had both their sons executed, James and John (Jesus disciples) [origin of the word: discern/learn]. Salome is very fascinating, and she seems alive, if you look away, she moves.


She looks pretty intense, and shows something written in the book. I suddenly feel compelled to look up into the dome.

This is what I see….




I almost fall flat on my back in shock! My heart jumps up my throat. I run off to find Marmi to show her. She is also amazed. What does it mean!

After some deep thought, I come up with this:….it is a message to look at my life and see what a wonderful, amazing, miraculous, divine, triumphant and victorious life it is? See all of you around me, and that I’m not alone. See this brilliant, enormously fearsome universe, and just love it all!!!


{I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to walk some of the camino, my backpack was light compared to the emotions I felt. The people along the way were so kind and helpful, and every step was worthwhile, whether big or small, or even backwards. I’m grateful to Marmi, for showing me mercy by forgiving my foibles whatever they may be. If I knew I would try to improve, but then who loves perfect people? I’m grateful for my healthy strong body. I’m blessed to have Simon, and my family who support and love me enough to let me go and experience things without jealousy. And I’m grateful for the lesson, that the true pilgrimage is life, and the end is actually a beginning.}

I also want to add, that this little story is in no way influenced by other writings or opinions. It was my intention to keep it untainted by not researching other pilgrims experiences before I left, therefore being my honest and true experience. I scribbled everything in my book as I went along, and this typed version is taken directly from there, with some editing of my ramblings of course. I have since read The Pilgrimage by Paolo Coelho, which was interesting. Lastly, I really hope Marmi is not offended by anything I wrote, and if she is…MERCY please?!





Mar 9 2016

Gallery of Arty illusions

Dear Ones,

Here are some of my latest recreational creations,

Pineapple in Tunisia

Pineapple in Tunisia

I took this photo in the Tunis souk (2015), The SOUK is a mesmerising place, like walking through a giant jewellery box. The pineapple painting (owned by Donna) is called ‘Welcome to my home”, according to symbolic. Most Tunisians are very welcoming, especially in the Souk, unfortunately their welcome is tainted by violence.




Vespa pink

Vespa decor

The Vespa (Italian scooter) was part of a display in Cinecitta’, the film studio in Rome where many great and memorable movies are made. Ben Hur, Cleopatra, the famous Westerns by Sergio Leone. This Vespa was used in the film ‘Roman Holiday’ with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. I wanted to turn it into something Audrey Hepburn fans would love. The good old Vespa has round womanly forms, and she should be dressed accordingly…with floral prints of course.




Rio de Janiero

Inspired by a trip to the Botanical gardens in Rio

After visiting the botanical gardens in Rio de Janiero, I was so inspired by the myriads of exotic plants that I went into a bio-trance and tried to paint like Henri Rousseau. However, this is the best I could do. There seemed to be something lacking so I’ve added some flowers I photographed in that garden. Yes, I realise it’s the easy way out, but I like the effect…it’s modern!



pink flowers


Cyclamens (owned by Nardia) remind me of little pink fairies, they flit around the grey leafy forest floor in late winter when everything else looks bleak. I have blended them here with nasturtium leaves which make graceful star shapes. I think they give the picture a bit of organic-magic and keeps the subtle wintery feeling.


Photographic art

soft light

This is in Copenhagen with Bean, we went up the spiral to the top of the tower. Many a maiden imprisoned up there would have imagined the walls painted like this.





white flowers


I love all the colours of white. There is a rainbow in there somewhere. Rather theatrical, and so it should be, this curtain hung on a film set. The flowers hover, to emphasise the drama of the scene.




Art and Photography layers

Mixing my paintings and photographs


Flamboyant and staged as Baroque maidens ( Baroque means rough or imperfect pearl’).  I think the french Queen Marie Antoinette would approve. The party was certainly splendid. Tyrone took the photograph, and I’ve edited it to black&white in order to show off the fabric. This one is all about pearly textures.



rose quartz

antique quartz

The NEW colour for 2016 is rose quartz. Info: Lyndsey Thompson (interior designer). So here is the flower I gave her Mom, which I’ve digitally glazed onto a very beautiful vase I photographed in the Naples museum, origin: Pompeii. We spent the whole day in the museum, with a little break for lunch.

It’s the most delicious process to choose a painting that blends well with a photograph and create something more compelling than the originals. No amount of hunger or thirst can keep me from making these images… layers and blend tools are like knife and fork. The only problem is sitting for an hour! Usually both my painting and photography are done on foot.



Feb 29 2016

Snap to Soul… thoughts on photography

To those who are nutty about pictures, I thought I might share my thoughts in that realm. This blog has been niggling at me (hope that’s an acceptable word) apparently the word snigger is cancelled on social media. It’s now spelt snikker (so I was nicely told by a commentator). Anyway, this blog has been nikkling at me for a while, because I haven’t shared any art, and now I seem to be wholly caught up in the photography craze.

Instead of putting my photographs on a website like I’m supposed to, I’ve decided to include them here. With a little commentary by the way…which won’t make much sense to anyone but me.

family photography

Brandon and Michael

Did you feel the awww effect? (not found on the photoshop menu).


I’ve often thought that looking at the world through a tiny camera lens and pressing the little black button, is a form of self-deprivation. Framing a shot means excluding all else, stripping away all smells, sounds, temperature and all surrounding activity. Photographers tend to run around framing shots even without the camera in hand. However, if it were at all possible to capture the ‘scent’  then I would do it. Start a whole new media craze…SCENTBOOK or SMELLAGRAM or SNAPSNIFF.



radiant sky overhead

the creation story

Light is everything. Shadows are a by-product. Darkness is a rest.


A picture doesn’t tell the story unless it pokes one in the eyeball and sets one thinking. An image is never a final product.  While processing and publishing, it passes in and out of a lens (the eye) and is re-processed and filtered in the brain and then again in the soul, where it may become something important (if it’s not filtered out…like a virus)…only then, if you’re very lucky it becomes a story. That’s the ultimate prize.

Vespa and Cardinal

Photography Leanne Talbot Nowell

way of the Gods

Sometimes colour is critically important for those pop fizz effects. This wouldn’t work in black&white.


I think that everything that one has ever seen is layered in the brain filter that transforms an image from an arrangement of light waves into something quite different …called meaning.


Primary colours = primary feelings


I often find the rule of thirds needs ignoring. Those eyes are centre stage, why put them on the 3rd line?



Looking at an image – for the soul, is similar to taking a sip of water for the body – it’s good for you.  Do you stop to think where that sip of water has been, and where it come from, where is it going, what does it do in your body while passing through and out onto the planet and into the sea and up to the sky and back again as rain in the river in your glass? That’s called knowledge. Not likely, but when you actually do think about it then your soul does a jiggedy jig called meaning.


surviving on the Olga rocks

Like a brushstroke.


Or is an image a sacred thing, not to be admired, but worshiped and feared for it’s subtle power?

baby feet

caring hands, growing feet

My grandson’s feet. This picture speaks.


This is a very photographed subject in Florence, he looks down on us with …..

Marble statue

Statues that tell you something

Thank goodness there were no camera’s around during the Renaissance!

Media is a squishy game for strawberry hearted photographers.

Photography is a highly individualised mass activity.

Living in Rome exposes us to the reality of the snap-shot craze. There is not a corner where someone, or hundreds of people, are taking pictures! I’m one of them. Each of us thinking we’re taking a masterpiece, and believing that all our friends are going to go wild when they see our pictures. But they soon tire to admire.

—I know it’s a bummer…hence this blog.

I know I’m an artist because I’m working on a gallery, not in one. 

Garden Castel Gandolfo

how deep is your understanding


with love


(all thoughts are mine, and the photographs are mine too)


May 10 2015

Sacrificial Bull and Starry Skies, the Cult of Mithras.



After a heartwarming start to Mothers Day, we walked up our little cobbled hill to the piazza to meet a group of history lovers from the Archealogical Club of Ariccia. We had been told about this tour by Marco (owner of the Enoteca in Marino) and organiser of the Parco Castelli Romani tours. Important because this was to be one of the first ever viewings of a famously mysterious and recently discovered Mithras fresco. I know what you’re thinking…the usual over enthusiastic exaggeration.

Marco had enquired on our behalf and given us an email address, to which Simon duly wrote asking for permission to join the special tour. The group was milling about at the foot of the fountain I Quattro Mori in the main square. We went up to the serious looking man who was ticking off a list of attendees. At that moment a rather brown woolly looking woman waddled up to us and asked what we wanted. She said: Oh! (like OIH) Come ti permetti  scrivere un email…in a blazing voice…blagh blagh blagh, fangs and spit flashing. That translates directly to “How DARE you write an email”….who do you think you are, this is a private group and you can’t just barge in….

Can you picture Simon’s face?!! hehehe. I don’t think even his own mother has ever spoken to him like that!

She went on and on about the chances of us slipping on a step and then she would be held responsible, and before we could reply she turned her back on us. Well, that is not how we are used to being treated around here hmph. Italians are usually very polite and do their best to please. I dragged Simi off before he could begin a long and useless begging argument, and we marched ourselves to the ‘never-before-entered’ gate to the mysterious Mithras place which happens to be situated a few steps up from our shabby train station and a few steps down from Nello, the green car tinker man. It has an imposing black gate with a nice modern sign. We’ve been eyeing it for years, and enquiring about opening dates etc.

There appeared to be a smart-suited man standing outside,  as I’d hoped and imagined. He was obviously waiting for the precious group to arrive. We began to talk, and he admitted to being the mayor, ten years ago, who, quite unlike the present mayor (who is lolling about in prison these days) very kindly offered to give us a OWN PRIVATE tour of the temple….cave.

Now you won’t believe this, but whether you do or don’t, here is the truth.

The God Mithra came from Iran. About the same time as Christianity, but it only lasted about 400 years. Probably because it was for men only. Mostly for army officers, legionaries, customs officers, tax officials and business men. It flourished all over the Roman Empire, into Britain and Africa. The followers built special sacred sites mostly subterranean. Apparently the Christian Churches were then built over the Mithras caves. Nobody knows what went on in this cult, except  that they were like small secret clubs where membership was open to slaves as well. Like all mystical cults of classical antiquity Mithraism has left hardly any written traces. You can read all about it online however.

We walked into a cavernous concrete space, and slipped down the stairs. lol. This place belongs to the old guy upstairs who, when he built the house, forgot to tell anyone about the Mithras temple in the dungeon below. His niece Marina told me she used to play in there as a little girl. It was thanks to a customer who wanted  to buy wine from his cantina, that his dirty secret was exposed.

Only recently did the archeological powers that be get to work and clean out all the mud. Originally built as a water cistern for a Roman garden above, the walls are very smooth and ‘water proof’. It was later converted to a Mithras site in about 150 AD.

We descended into a dark dripping cave-like entrance.

At the very end of a 30m long dark arched tunnel, dimly lit up, was the breathtaking sight of the fresco. Filling the back wall. In full colour, about 5m square, it just shone. It glowed with such force, it just pulled me closer and closer, until I was up against it.

I can’t explain the absolute awesome feeling of seeing something so beautiful, so hidden, so mysterious!

AWESOME in the truest sense of the word. You know when your chest tightens and it sends the tears up to your eyes, and you get that magnificent happiness surge? And you feel you should go down on your knees? but you don’t because it would be melodramatic….so you just do it secretly in your soul.

What I liked best about it, is the cloak of stars and seven planets. It billows up in this amazing indigo with twinkly stars all over, and the planets are painted bigger and brighter. They knew about planets in those days. I also liked the face of the ‘God’, he has light green eyes and pink lips. All his blond curls, and the pink dress fluttering around. The hem and sleeves of his garment embroidered with golden thread. The sun face and the moon face in the corners….

Here is a picture that Simon took with his phone. You have to come and see it for yourself.


Unfortunately, since it was covered with mud and mould, the workman accidentally hacked a hole in the bulls face with his pick before realising what it was. It was a bit scary to see, at the exit of the tunnel, there are two other small frescoes of a symbolic figure on either side, each had a hand hacked out, which makes me think of the little piece of Roman fresco I have in my kitchen……………………..