Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Farewells and other bits

February 26, 2018

Our farewell dinner with Ian’s family was held at a local Vietnamese Restaurant. We have been warmly enveloped by the Denny family and we were looking forward to getting together with them again. There were Ian’s parents Barry & Christine, his two brothers Matt and Mike, and his cousin Julie & Brian. They are all so easy going and fun to get along with, we were assured of a great evening.

Back row: Matt, Ian, Antony, Alex, Mike

Front row: Chris, Bernice, Julie, Barry, Brian, Roy

Let’s just say that the food was great, the drinks flowed and the Sambucca shots that seemed to keep coming at the end of the evening made for a fun end to the night!

Matt channeling his inner Vietnamese.

They all decided that Christmas 2019 would definitely be celebrated in New Zealand with all wanting to experience a totally different type of climate for the festive season. They are all saving madly in anticipation of their big adventure to the antipodes.

We didn’t always go out together as a family, Ants and Alex met up in town on a few occasions and then we would get some random collection of photos to let us know they were having a good time.

these two out for cocktails and silly indoor golf!

or I get random photos of…guess what we are having for dinner?

And it’s not all gourmet food…..check out this one that Antony and Ian sent to us when they were left home alone after having been at the football all day!

who knew that there was such a thing as “chicken dinosaurs”? Let’s just say that boys will be boys and will do anything to get a reaction out of Mum!

A lot of cooking was done at home over the time we spent in London with Alex doing a bit of baking as well. One day she decided to make Neenish Tarts, just like Grandma used to make. For those of you who don’t know what these are they are a sweet pastry base with a creamy lemony filling and iced with half chocolate and half white icing. They are an antipodean delight and one of my favourites. I can attest that Alex’s version were fabulous and every bit as good as her Grandmas.

Alex channeling her inner grandma!

We also went along to watch Alex play netball on numerous occasions, wrapping up against the biting cold and at times it was not at all pleasant and I hankered for NZ summer weather…..but now we are back and in the searing heat wave and humidity we are experiencing I can now confess that I am hankering for those chilly days where we can rug up against the cold, enjoy a hot toddy or two and cheer from the side lines. Her team mates made us feel very welcome and we even enjoyed the odd night out with them too. Oh and yes, you guessed it, I didn’t take one picture at the netball!

Our last few days were all a bit of a whirl, with us all pretending that our departure date was not imminent.

Then comes those dreaded goodbyes, they don’t come any easier and even though we have plans for future meet ups to look forward to, it does not make it any the less emotional. All in all, we have all had a great time creating lots of wonderful memories.


Family reconnections

January 12, 2018

We had set aside a few days to visit a couple of family members so with trains tickets booked, contact made we set off to make our way north. It was a journey of many links, we took the bus from Alex’s home at just after 8am which then required a relatively short walk to the train station in Erith. The train from Erith to London Bridge takes about 40minutes then a walk from London Bridge station to the underground which took us past Borough Market where we resisted the temptation to visit, after all we were on a schedule! Then it was the tube to Euston station, then another walk to the train station at Euston to catch the train to Bletchley. The train to Bletchley was a short 35 minute trip via fast train, and on arrival we took a taxi to Bletchley Park as we were uncertain as to how far away the station was from the park, it turned out it wasn’t too far and we could have walked. We then spent the next 4-5hrs wandering around Bletchley before being picked up by my cousin Jackie and her husband Hossein. Phew! Most modes of transport covered today; bus, tube, train, taxi, car and shanks’ pony.

NB. A separate blog entry on Bletchley Park will follow.

Jackie is actually my cousin Hilda’s daughter, and tomorrow we would be catching up with Hilda. It can become a little confusing at times as my Mums name is Hilda, and it is on Mums side of the family that we are connected, with my Mum and cousin Hilda’s Mum being sisters. It gets even more confusing as Mum was the 17th of 19 children and Hilda’s mum was number 2, which makes for a lot of cousins as well making the age range in cousins rather extensive.

Back to the original story. Jackie and Hossein live just outside Milton Keynes which is not too far from Bletchley, so we didn’t have too far to travel. They had kindly offered to host us for the night in their lovely home. After lots and lots of chat, it was time for dinner. Hossein had prepared for us an amazing Persian feast, and I mean, a feast.

entree was a selection of delights which were accompanied by Persian bread.

I cannot remember the names of the dishes, but they included yoghurt, salads, herbs, aubergine, cheese, nuts, and spinach prepared in many different ways. There was also the traditional drink Doogh which is a fermented yoghurt drink.

Jackie, Bernice and Hossein

Bernice, Jackie and Roy

Talking and catching up continued through the meal, so much so that none of us remembered to take a picture of the main course, which was an amazing array of dishes including chicken, lamb, two rice dishes one of which included barberries, potatoes, vegetable and herb side dishes all of which were delicious. It must have taken hours of careful preparation for which we were extremely appreciative.

Jackie then presented us with a Persian dessert of cream, cream, rosewater and pistachios. It was very refreshing at the end of the meal, and I did remember to take a picture of that!


After dinner, we relaxed in the lounge and over sweetmeats accompanied by Persian tea we talked and talked until the wee small hours, time for bed – it had been a long day.

The following morning Jackie took Roy and I back to Bletchley so we could finish off what we had not covered the previous day with arrangements made for Jackie to pick us up at 1pm. Then it was back to their place to meet up with Jackie’s sister Dawn who was bringing Ken & Hilda over for a visit.

Back row L-R: Dawn, Jackie, Bernice, Roy with Ken and Hilda in the front.

Cousins Bernice and Hilda

Over lunch and into the late afternoon the talking continued as there was much to catch up on since our last visit in 2010/2011. However, all good things come to an end, and with fond farewells it was time for us to leave.

Jackie took us to Milton Keynes train station where we caught the train to our next destination, Droitwich Spa near Worcester this time a one and a half hour train trip. This trip required just one change in Birmingham, and with times already tight between journeys it was just our luck that our train was delayed just out of Birmingham with signalling problems, it meant we ended up having just 3 minutes to change platforms and trains! However, we made it just as the doors were closing for the final leg of the journey where we were met at the station by Susan.

Sue’s father and my father are cousins which means I’m getting to visit cousins on both sides of the family. We had also met up with Sue and her sister Veronica last time we were here, and as well Sue and her husband Martin had visited us in NZ in 2011.

We headed off to Sue & Martins farmhouse out in the countryside where we were greeted by a lovely warm house and a beautiful dinner. Again we ended up talking and laughing until late, cosy at the table in front of the Aga stove.

The following day I spent reading, as in reading the heap of files of family documents that Sue has which include a pile of letters written by my Mum to Sue’s parents, Sydney and Vera, over the years since the mid 1960’s. As well there were letters from my grandpop and great aunts and uncles, a wealth of information for me to go through and take photos to add to our records. Most of the letters contained an insight into daily life for our family and brought back many memories. Sue also found a stash of photographs that she thought she had lost which included pictures of my great grandmother as well as the rest of the family over the years. There were lots of ooohs and aaahs as I recognised people and places, putting dates and names to some of the unlabelled photographs.

Bernice, Martin and Sue

After another superb meal in the afternoon, it was time for us to head back to London, reversing most of our train travels from the other day.

I have to add here that from both sides of the family, the Womersley and Coatham lines, there is an obvious family propensity to being fantastic cooks that has managed to work its way down through the generations and across the globe.

Our return journey was uneventful and with Alex picking us up from the train station in Erith, we made it back ready to make the most of the week ahead.

Lunch at the Curlew

January 5, 2018

Alex had time off between Christmas and New Year and one of the things we wanted to do was to go out for a nice lunch to The Curlew in East Sussex, a restaurant where the head chef Gary is a friend of Alex’s and is a restaurant that is gaining a very well earned reputation.

Mr Google told us it was just over an hour to get there, but of course we had to factor in traffic so allowed ourselves plenty of time, perhaps enough time to visit Bodiam Castle which was nearby.

Unfortunately, traffic held us up a little, and also the fact that we took a slight detour….the scenic route of course. When we arrived at the castle the queue of traffic to get in was lengthy, so instead of visiting the castle we went to the pub across the road for a quick one before we went back down the road to the Curlew for lunch.the Curlew

And what a lunch we had, cocktails to start with, I had the hot gin & tonic cocktail and delicious it was too and perfect to warm you up on a chilly day. We made our choices of what to have for lunch and then sat back to enjoy the following 2 1/2 hours.

inside the restaurant

First the canapéssmoked salmon gougère, goats cheese tart, beef tartare.

Every morsel was delicious and whetted our appetites for what was to come. Entrees –

Clockwise from top left; goats cheese, Cod cheeks, pigeon breast, pork belly.

Sorry but I cannot remember what was with what, except to say that every single morsel was deliciously outstanding.

Moving onto mains –

Roy had venison

Antony and I both had partridge

Alex had halibut and lobster

Each plate was not only beautifully presented, it was an amazing selection of flavours all served on piping hot plates a particular thing that I have an issue with as there is nothing more annoying than having a hot meal served on a cold plate. We all chose a wine, an English white for Alex, an English red for Bernice and a French red for Roy.

Antony was the only one to have dessertChocolate heaven

But of course Roy had to have a cheese board

It not only included a selection of English cheeses but also a variety of breads and crackers accompanied by a walnut chutney, pickled apple, quince paste and charcoal celery.

Alex and I had a coffee and a tea which came with a selection of sweets

coffee fudge, lemon posset and pâté des fruits

At the conclusion of the meal, we thanked Gary for his innovative and delicious menu before we set off on our journey home where, we all agreed that we didn’t need anything for dinner.

Theatre, rugby, party, football time

January 3, 2018

Friday 29 December:

We headed into London on Friday afternoon aiming to eventually end up in the Westend as we had booked seats to go and see a show. Alex, Antony Roy and I made our way into town via train and tube with Ian joining us later once he had finished work. But first we all need to have something to eat as we hadn’t had lunch at it was by now nearing 5pm and the hunger pangs were starting to gnaw away.

We headed to a restaurant by Covent Garden called Ping Pong, for a dim sum feast.

Alex reminded us that we had actually been here before when we last visited London, except that time the restaurant was Spanish tapas bar and our company at that time was my niece Fran and her now hubby Clive. I’ve looked for the photo of us having dinner together then but I cannot find it amongst the few thousands of pictures we have!

From there we headed across to the Westend Theatre district where we were set to see a show, called Mischief Movie Night, an improvised movie live on stage. We first had to meet up with Ian before the show, we then settled in to watch the show.

the scene is set

What happens with this show is that you suggest a genre, location and title and Mischief Theatre’s improvisers bring the show to life, complete with rewinds, fast forwards, directors cuts and a live score. So when it came time to call out suggestions for genres, a few were called out and picked then we had to vote for which one we wanted….Alex’s choice of Kung Fu movie made the cut as did Roy’s suggestion of Spaghetti Western with Roy’s suggestion winning out to popular vote. Other extra things that were added to the plot was the classic gunfight scene, the setting was an old picture theatre and a dinosaur had to make an appearance!

Much hilarity ensued, with the cast at times unable to contain themselves when things went awry and ended up in fits of laughter. We all thoroughly enjoyed the humour and it was a really great night out, with a train journey home to wrap up the night.

Saturday 30 December:

We were all going to Twickenham to watch a rugby match, including Ian’s parents Christine & Barry, their cousin Julie & Brian, Matt and Alex’s friend Helen completed the group. First we headed to the Campden pub to meet up with everyone for a bite to eat for lunch before making our trek across the city, oh and this was the same pub we came to on Christmas Day. At times it was like herding kittens.

The train journey meant we had multiple changes to make and platforms to find, but we got there in plenty of time to then make the trek from train station to the rugby grounds.

walking along the streets with the crowds.

getting settled into our seats

It was a packed stadium with nearly 78,000 people in attendance, but with clear views of the pitch, a huge screen at each end of the stadium and smaller screen directly in front of us, we were guaranteed not to miss a thing.

The ball delivery was a little different as well with a high wire stretched across the top of the stadium and a guy bouncing along the wire to the middle to deliver the ball dropping it from the great height. I have to admit that I could not watch him as it made me feel rather ill.

in both pictures above, you can see the tightrope walker in the screen and if you look carefully you can also see him in the little piece of sky peeping through the top of the stadium. In the lower picture, the ball has just been dropped which you can see in the tv screen. Please note that I took these pictures by not looking and just pointing and clicking!!!

We enjoyed the game and the crowd was very good. Rugby crowds are very different to football (aka soccer) crowds here. Apparently football supporters are kept very separate from each other with lots of police and crowd control in evidence. In many matches, one group of supporters is locked in the grounds whilst the opposition supporters are let out, and usually in totally different directions so they never meet! A little different to what we experience and what is experienced at the rugby where everyone is mixed and friendly banter ensues. I am told that rugby is for “posh” people in the UK, the ones that go to the right schools, don’t ask me if it’s the public or private school as the two types of school are labeled the opposite of what we know them as in NZ!

A few of the many food stall at the grounds, we had a drink or two and a bite to eat whilst we waited for the crowds to dissipate.

We managed to stay together and retrace our steps home.

the rabble on the train.

Oh and if you were wondering, the Harlequins won 50-21.

Sunday 31 December:

A few of Alex & Ian’s friends had organised a dinner at an Indian Restaurant, aka a curry house in this neck of the woods, for a group of us to go to on New Years Eve but first they all descended upon their house for an afternoon of watching the football and trying out a few gin based cocktails as we somehow seem to have managed to put together a reasonably large selection of gins.

looking up recipes?

From here we then went to the Curry House for an evening that proved to be brilliant on many counts. First the company was great, second the food was amazingly delicious and very very different to the NZ versions of curry, and thirdly there was entertainment. And believe me when I mean entertainment, I mean we were thoroughly entertained.

The entertainment was one guy on a key board who we must admit that initially we had serious reservations regarding his competence, however after a couple of songs, which included local improvised lyrics, wigs hats and glasses were continually being added for dramatic effect, we were all soon into the swing of things. With the refreshments flowing, he was being helped along by our vociferous table (albeit except me as I had woken that day without a voice), but I did try!!!

doing his Elvis impression.

After an hilarious evening out we headed back home to continue the celebrations including watching on TV London putting on an impressive display of fireworks.

Monday 1 January :

It was a slower (and later) start to the day today, by late morning we were all up ready for the days activities. Alex and I went off to do the grocery shopping whilst the blokes went off to the local football match, supporting Welling. Apparently Roy is becoming known as an honorary long distance supporter, as I think this is his third or fourth game he has been to!!!

The ground for the game against Dartford

Meanwhile Alex and I had a quiet day at home before everyone returned for dinner then we all settled down in front of the TV to watch the darts final live. I know, who would have thought that I would want to watch men throwing darts at a dart board? But after having to watch a number of games surrounded by some very avid and vociferous fans, I became a little interested! And yes, it was a good final.

All in all a busy and fun few days.

Kew Gardens at Christmas

December 30, 2017

Who knew that Kew Gardens opens up at night over the Christmas period for a spectacular Christmas lighting show? Roy, Antony and I made our way across London via bus, train and tube to wait for Alex and Ian to independently arrive after work at the train stop near Kew. We had arranged to meet at a local pub not too far from the gardens ready for our allocated time of entry into the gardens. Following are just some pictures showing the amazing display which we found as we meandered through the gardens.

Christmas tree made up of sleighs with an ever changing colourful light display set to music.

This impressive display of balls which changed colour and lighting variation in time to amazing orchestral music. The balls covered an area the size of half a football field.

Lights and decorations among the treeStars light the trees

tunnel of lights

Alex & Ian in the tunnel of lightColourfully lit bridge which was again a moving light show set to music. When we got to walk across the bridge we discovered that there was another light show going on under the water, all coordinated to the music.

and then there was the marshmallows to toast over braziers. Roy and I toasting our chosen flavours, mine was toasted coconut, his was passion fruit and ginger.

and the four of us toasting marshmallows, L-R Bernice Antony Roy and Alex. And the other flavours? Alex & Ian had raspberry and champagne, Antony had caramel popcorn. They were amazingly delicious and a welcome treat about half way around the walk.

one of the beautiful huge trees all dressed in lights

the Kew Gardens Glass House with a beautiful lighting display

But at the end of the trail was the pièce de résistance, a lighting show displayed on a fountain of water in the middle of the Lake set to music telling a tale of Christmas including moving figures.

the display in the Lake with the glass house in the background.

More can be seen here

After just over two and a half hours we had made our way back to the start, now to catch the tube and then the train home after a great night out.

Christmas in London

December 29, 2017

Plans were made, orders placed and lists drawn up in readiness for Christmas Day. Alex and Ian were hosting Christmas Day festivities this year and for Ian’s family this would be a little different from their traditional fare. Tables were arranged so everyone could be seated comfortably, seating plans were made, cutlery and crockery were borrowed, Christmas crackers were made, the menu drawn up and we were all set for the day with a bit of a kiwi twist put on it all.

The English were nearly outnumbered by Kiwis though as Alex’s friend from Oamaru days, Kaz, who also lives in London came to join in the fun. However, it was not all going to be Kiwified, one English tradition for this family is that you all head to the pub around midday for a couple of hours, to meet up with friends, celebrate over a couple of drinks before heading home for Christmas dinner, it was in fact good fun and a nice way for everyone to catch up with friends before going off home for family time. It also happens to be one of Ian’s mates birthday on Christmas Day and there is a long standing tradition of him opening his birthday gifts from his mates whilst at the pub…..let’s just say that I have no idea where these guys found the gifts but let’s just say they were hilarious (and some were very definitely x rated!!).

Once back at home, Alex and I got into cooking mode, although there wasn’t that much to do as we had prepped just about everything before hand, so it was just the last finishing touches to do.the table all set ready to go

We all settled down with a festive drink and some nibbles before dinner was ready, Roy had made a delicious duck pistachio and cranberry terrine which with a few pickles and some nice bread went down very well. Then it was time for entree and our homage to turkey, in the form of turkey bonbons with a port cranberry sauce. Apparently roast turkey is the usual main course in this part of the world and to deviate from having a turkey was unheard of. So as not to disappoint those who wanted turkey we came up with this alternative, turkey breast pieces in a spicy rub encased in phylo pastry made to look like Christmas crackers or bonbons. They went down a treat. Then it was the main course…..Beef Wellington using ribeye beef, and it looked and tasted fantastic I have to say, and along with all the trimmings it was a great success. You will note a lack of photographic evidence of the food….some of us were working too hard to have remembered to take any pictures!! However here are a few of us enjoying the meal.

Once the main was out of the way it was time to adjourn to the lounge for another variation on Christmas gift giving, our version of secret Santa.

everyone was told to buy a gift to a nominated value, wrap in newspaper and bring it along. Everyone then draws a number out of a hat to determine the order in which you choose and open a gift, once opened, you can then opt to either keep the gift or swap with another opened gift. With much hilarity gifts were opened, kept, swapped and swapped again.

Christine opening one of her gifts with Julie & Brian watching on

who bought that, we all wondered?!

Antony and Ian discussing the pros and cons with the rest of us laughing along

Roy and Alex

It was all rather hilarious with some inventive wrapping and packaging also in evidence, and everyone received a really good present. I think that the English members of the family were quite impressed with the whole idea and it certainly makes life a lot easier rather than buying small gifts for all.

The gift swapping took a good hour and a half to complete and then it was time for dessert, a pavlova of course and a chocolate roulade as well as a small Christmas pudding for those traditionalists.

There was a planned cheeseboard for afters but by this time we were all well and truly full, so it was time for trying out some of those gifts, generally chat and look back on the day. The outcome? Well, the English have decided that Christmas 2019 will be held in New Zealand with our turn to host……hmmmm, does that mean we shall have to find ourselves a base? We shall see!!!

Antony arrives

December 28, 2017

Back tracking a little, late Friday afternoon the week before Christmas Alex, Roy and I headed off to Heathrow to pick up Antony who was arriving after a loooong trip from Auckland to London via LA and Munich. Unfortunately we got caught up in some very heavy traffic which was then further complicated by a breakdown in one of the lanes and we ground to a complete halt for some time, and as a result we were running late.

traffic at a standstill in the rain.

We arrived a little late however Antony was through customs and had collected his luggage and was waiting for us, wearing shorts and jandals! Brrr, he might just be changing into something a little warmer once we get home. We had a good run home where we organised dinner whilst Antony had a shower to freshen up as after 36 hours of travelling all you want is a nice hot shower, a bite to eat and then bed.

The following day was spent doing a bit of shopping and getting organised in readiness for Christmas Day as Alex & Ian are hosting the day this year. Then in the late afternoon, Antony and Ian went off to a local pub to watch a football match and undoubtedly down a few pints whilst Alex, Roy and I went off to see the pantomime Cinderella at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford.

view of the stage from our seats.

The panto was hilarious with humour aimed at both adults and children, but the best part of the whole show for us was watching the young boy in front of us becoming totally involved in the show, yelling at the villain and shouting out the traditional “he’s behind you” or “watch out” or cheering on the hero/heroine. It was a really lovely night out.

The following day we all went into London to the Southbank Christmas market as well as the regular street food market a few hundred metres away. We enjoyed a variety of street food first finding some shelter from the drizzly cold weather under a marquee before we headed off to the Christmas market. We wandered around the stalls imbibing on a little mulled wine along the way, just to keep us warm of course, before deciding to adjourn to the bar under the bridge purely to stay dry on the outside.

Alex, Antony, Ian, Roy and I.

sign at the bar!

The next couple of days were spent going off to visit museums, more markets and generally getting prepared for Christmas.

Back in old Blighty

December 20, 2017

We arrived back in London after having had a fantastic trip through Portugal and southern Spain although the temperature change was a little bit of a surprise but it didn’t take us long to get our winter gear out and dress appropriately for the conditions. We have been back a few weeks now and I have to admit that blog writing has not been high on the priority list with most days fairly busy however I shall endeavour to do a bit of a catch up and get back on track, although there will be a a couple of entries out of sequence for Roy’s musings on a few places of interest.

The major happening has been Alex and Ian have had their back garden landscaped and transformed and that meant a group of men were here working for the past two weeks. I was kept busy making cups of tea and doing the odd bit of baking.

This is the before picture

The garden sloped up quite steeply to the back fence which had a line of conifers that blocked out the winter sun and also drew any goodness out of the soil plus they took up quite a bit of space. How much space we were unsure as it was impossible to tell until they cut them down.

The start of the tree removal. We could now see that once the trees were gone they had gained over 3m in their garden.

By the end of the first day all the trees were down and they had started digging out the first level.

Start of the new fence going in….and what’s this? Neighbours? Where were they before?!

Progress was swift over the first few days with plenty of workers on site. By the end of the first week things were looking great.

We had been very lucky with the weather although temperatures were very chilly at least there was no rain however that was about to change with a cold snap due. We woke on Sunday morning to snow falling.

Ian’s parents and 2 brothers Matt & Mike were coming round to visit as well as Mikes partner Sam(antha) and their children Olivia and the new addition to their family 10 day old Beth. Ian took Olivia out to play on the little yellow digger, although we are not sure who wanted to play on it more!!

Then it was Alex’s turn to help Olivia make a snowman on the front lawn

Then it was time to put together a gingerbread house kit with Olivia, although we are not sure that all the decorations made it onto the house.

but she had heaps of fun, as did Alex and I helping her, and she took it home to share with her friends.

Meanwhile, the garden progress slowed somewhat after the snow but by the end of the second week it was all done.

And just to compare, here are the before and after pictures

A great result with lots of usable space, now just to get the neighbours on the right hand side to put in a decent fence. We have learned that here in the UK, the fence on the left hand side of the property is yours to put in and maintain.

It hasn’t all been gardens though, Roy and Ian went to a couple of local football matches….although I think the after match functions are more of a highlight!

Roy with a couple of the players after the game.

Not to be left out of the fun, Alex and I went off for afternoon tea

Roy went out with Ian, father Barry and brother Matt for an afternoon of bowling, although I’m pretty sure a visit to another pub was also on the programme.

Roy in action with Matt and Barry watching on.

And Roy and I went out one evening for a change and had a lovely meal out and we also managed to sneak in a bit of Christmas shopping.

There have been visits to museums and libraries which Roy will be filling in accounts of at some stage. We also met up with Barry & Christine one day for a nice lunch out at a little local pub.

The other news is that our son Antony arrived safely on Friday night, but that update is for another post.


December 11, 2017

We interrupt the usual broadcast to tell you that we are back in London, we have been back a couple of weeks now, and yes, we are behind with blog posts. We just have a couple more posts to do on our last few days in Spain before we returned to the UK, hopefully we can get those done this week.

Meanwhile here are a couple of pictures from yesterday’s snow event…..yes, it’s cold, but it’s pretty and what you expect at this time of the year we are just hoping we get more for Christmas Day then we will have a white Christmas.

looking out of the upstairs hall window to the street

The neighbour clearing her driveway

Ian’s family came for lunch and to introduce us all to Beth, who was only born just over a week ago, and her big sister Olivia. With the snow falling continuously for most of the day Olivia wanted to build a snowman, Alex was co-opted into assisting with the making of the snowman, complete with stones for his eyes, a carrot for his nose and twigs for his arms,

Then to finish the day, we had a little gingerbread house building and decorating with Olivia….not sure that all of the decorations ended up on the house but she loved doing it!

Normal blog transmission will resume shortly!


November 5, 2017

We arrived in darkness and eventually found our hotel. After getting off the train we started looking at the maps we had with us, as well as google maps, also checking the notice boards at the train station to figure out where our hotel was, after he saying this way, and she saying no it’s that way, we looked up from our maps and directly across the road from the train station was our hotel staring us in the face!!! Well, that was easy.

As we had had a bite to eat in Milan we decided an early night was in order ready for a day of exploring. The next morning we headed down stairs to have breakfast in the hotel, although adequate, it was nothing to write home about so we made the decision to find our breakfasts elsewhere. Our first port of call today was to visit the Catholic Cathedral here in Mendrisio as we knew this was where Roy’s GGrandfather had been baptised.

Here in the canton (region) of Ticino, a ticket/voucher is issued by your accommodation provider which entitles you to free bus and train travel within the region plus a discount on other forms of transport and special tourist attractions plus free access to museums and the like. This is a brilliant scheme that we took full advantage of by catching buses into town and exploring the region via train.

Top map has Mendrisio marked by blue dot, the bottom picture is a closer version with Mendrisio marked in red.

We found the Catholic Church on top of a hill in the centre of Mendrisio. I have to add here that everything around here is either at the top or the bottom of a a bloody steep hill. You definitely need to have mountain goat genes to live here.

We went into the church for a quick look around. This church was replaced between 1863 and 1875 therefore Damiano would not have known this building. After wandering around the outside of the church we went inside for a look.

the church – La Chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano Di Mendrisio

There was no one in sight anywhere so we had resigned ourselves to not having any luck today.

Just as we were about to leave a gentleman came in, through our limited Italian and his non existent English, we finally worked out that this was Father Claudio, the senior priest of the parish. Roy had written a bit of an intro and a list of names we were looking for and had used google translate which he had saved to his iPad which he showed to Claudio. With a flurry of oohs and ahhs, Father Claudio said follow me.

the Rectory

We ended up in the rectory next to the Church where he went and found another priest, this one spoke reasonable English and was very helpful. With more “follow me”, both men led us down two stories to the archive room where low and behold all the original Church registers are held.

With appropriate dates given, they found the right books for the baptismal records and we started to troll through the entries, how amazing to be able to handle and search through books over 300 years old (and no, we did not have to wear white gloves). Lo and behold we found Roy’s GGrandfather, however his name was registered as Santinus Damianus Vanini (note the one ‘n’ in the middle of the surname) but the details for his parents matched perfectly. We photographed the entry and then started looking for his siblings, we found just the one entry, for his sister Maria but the other two brothers who were born later were nowhere to be found. They could well have moved to another parish or even town by this stage.

Once we had exhausted all the options by searching the appropriate books, it was time for us to go, but not before Claudio disappeared for a moment or two to reappear with two books in hand as gifts for us! One book is on the Church and it’s history and the other on it’s Madonna. Now we just have to get our Italian up to scratch to read them, but the pictures are great!!

The priests would not accept anything in exchange for the books and we left feeling very lucky to have had such a welcome and such great assistance. Before we left the men suggested that we visit the local municipal building to check out records. They informed us that however were closed from 12 – 2pm so we had plenty of time for some lunch before we went.

We found a charming looking small bistro in the backstreets away from the main centre which was being frequented by both office workers and workmen alike. We were very warmly greeted, and sat down at a table for a drink to start with. We ascertained from the menu that today’s special was a chicken dish, we watched as others were brought the dish and it looked delicious. So that was my choice, Roy went with a pasta dish.

It was a great meal, so much so that all was required for dinner that evening was a snack!

Soon it was time to head to the municipal building to see what we could find. Unfortunately, we had no luck as they had no records prior to 1850 or 1860 as there was no central registry requirement in Switzerland at that time.  In fact, registry came in over a period of about 25 years Canton by Canton.  They did however suggest that we go to Bellinzona which is the Capital of Ticino Canton. We shall go there tomorrow.