Posted on December 13, 2010 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay11 Comments »


Well, here we are again.  And for this Macro Monday puzzle I have something very ordinary for you.

Surely all of you must have seen one or two of these – you may even have one in your house right now. It’s a piece of functional ephemera, meant for use and not for decoration, though some people (including me) tend to hang on to things rather longer than was ever intended.¬† This particular thing outlived its intended usefulness several months ago and yet .. here it still is!

So take your guesses and pop them in the comments and as usual, I’ll pop back tomorrow night and give you the answer in the form of a picture link in the bottom of this post.

I’m expecting pretty much a 100% success rate here .¬† Don’t disappoint me now!

Tuesday evening! And the answer is ….. here!

Well done to Sistertex, Mother Teresa, Kala, Brinkbeestinenglish, Carol, and Namaki! You all got it right, though one of you was wrong in a detail, the actual thing itself was correct so I’m letting you have that. I hope you all come back next week and I’ll try to find something a little more interesting and a little harder to solve!

Thanks for playing. ūüôā

Posted on December 8, 2010 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay17 Comments »


It’s been a busy week, but luckily I have something lined up for this week’s ABC Wednesday!

For the letter ‘U‘, I give you the ubiquitous Umbrella!¬† With the current cold snap (I love that phrase, don’t you?¬† It sounds so fleeting!) I’m not seeing too many people with umbrellas up, because they’re pretty useless against frost and ice, and for some reason people don’t seem to use them much while snow is actually falling, either.¬† Possibly because snow doesn’t actually feel wet, even if it is made of water.

However, when we were in Italy earlier this year we saw a unparalleled number of umbrellas, including all these in San Gimignano Рa charming hill town in Tuscany.  San Gimignano is famous for its towers, reputedly built by feuding families, but perhaps they were simply trying to reach the clouds so they could plug the leaks.

So many people seem to carry umbrellas in Italy, as if the natives believe they’ll melt in the rain or something.¬† There are street vendors with little piles of umbrellas for sale in almost every tourist spot.


And there are whole shops devoted to them Рwell, and hats too.   In Cortona we spotted this lovely old shop: hats on one side, umbrellas on the other!


Clearly the hat is simply another method of keeping the head dry, but of course, the umbrella is always useful if anything untoward happens.  People, dogs, and farm animals can all be fended off with a furled umbrella .. with varying degrees of success.  Sometimes they work better if you put them up, but I remember one experience I had while out walking with our first dog Jim and a large red and white golfing umbrella. We were walking through a field of bullocks and it was Most Unamusing, because they were overcome with curiosity, and frightened the pants off my poor dog.  In the end I had to put the umbrella down and get wet, whereupon the bullocks lost interest in us.

Anyway.  We witnessed unfurled umbrellas in many places in Italy, but I think the very first one we saw was, in fact, furled.  This gentleman walking along the seafront in La Spezia was strolling along in a very urbane way with his.


We mustn’t forget, of course, the other use of the umbrella, because although these are properly called parasols or sunshades, people everywhere persist in calling them umbrellas anyway.


And while the humble trattoria isn’t, strictly speaking, a shop, you can certainly buy things there.¬† Very yummy things indeed!¬† Possibly pasta all‘uovo (egg), and not forgetting the noble uva (grapes) with which the good people of Italy make unrivalled wines.

Of course, that day Рas you can see by the pavement Рwe had need of our own umbrellas, kindly provided by our host, Terenzo, of the Ortaglia agriturismo.  By the way, if you ever need somewhere unique to stay near Montepulciano, do see if you can book into this one, because it is wonderful!

Terenzo’s umbrellas are orange.


Pictures, anyone?

Lastly, here we are at Castiglione del Lago – yet another entrancing walled town, with some great little shops.


No.  Not a single umbrella in sight, furled or otherwise.  But you see, Castiglione del Lago is in Umbria!

Posted on December 1, 2010 in Life, the Universe and Everything, Oddities by Jay15 Comments »


What could be more appropriate for a round of ABC Wednesday dedicated to shops and shopping than a stack of trolleys for the letter ‘T‘? These ones were tucked inside the lobby of a B & Q – a do-it-yourself shop of gigantic proportions ideally suited to tradesmen and tinkerers. Tightly packed together like train carriages in a siding, they wait in tinny splendour for somebody to take one and put it to good use.

But some people are too lazy to trouble to return the trolleys to their true place, and will just abandon them anywhere.


How thoughtless is that? Can you imagine some poor young mother, laden down with shopping and trudging back to her car, pushing open that door with her pushchair, smack into a stack of unmovable trolleys? Could be a troublesome experience, and possibly the cause of some painful throbbing.

Here’s a different type of trolley – this one in Cortona, Italy.


An altogether more cheerful, colourful type, don’t you think? Why is it that the shops in Italy are so much nicer? Oooh, talking of Italy, I’ve just remembered a famous Italian tongue-twister which might amuse you.

Trentatr√® trentini entrarono in Trento tutti e trentatr√® trottellerando” which roughly translates as ‘Thirty-three people from Trento entered into Trento, all thirty three of them trotting along’. I do hope I have that written down correctly!


Being a tad contrary, I’m now going to show you two or three shops – or at least, places to buy stuff – where you will in no way need one of those wire contraptions known to us here in England as trolleys.


That’s a pretty little tea shop in Bourne. ‘Time for Tea‘, it’s called, as you can see. It will sell you some tea, cakes, scones, hot chocolate, and various other teatime treats, but you won’t be needing a trolley – or even a basket – to take them away with you.

How about this?


You can buy a tattoo or two in here – and I nearly did! I chickened out at the last minute!

Oh, here’s something ..


This rack of horse tack won’t be going anywhere in a trolley, either! If you buy from a stand at a fair, you’d better be able to carry it!

Lastly, but not least, here’s a place you wouldn’t even be able to manoevre a trolley through!


Two rows of tightly packed transit vans alongside the river Arno in Pisa – it’s a street market, filling the whole of that narrow little road! And no help from the river, either, in transporting your purchases; the river Arno has no boats. It isn’t navigable for very far, you see. It’s shallow, and full of weirs. Too much trouble! You might as well resign yourself to trotting along like the trentini!