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Sunday, 12 April 2009


One Eastertime, I observed a class of primary school children rolling their Paste Eggs down the steep bank on which the Penshaw Monument stands. I thought to myself that I would like to do that one day! So last night I made the eggs. I placed parsley leaves against the white shells (it's hard to get white-shelled free range eggs but they had them in the market at Darlington) and then wrapped them in onion skins. I went to Sainsburys while in Darlo and stole lots of red onion skins from the veggie bin there. These eggs were then carefully placed in an old stocking foot and tied tightly, then boiled till hard.
The results are shown above.

Having woken to a brilliant Easter morning, blue skies, calm air and blossoms and daffodils everywhere, I am now off in search of a place to roll them. The egg that rolls furthest and/or lasts longest without breaking will bestow good luck upon its "Roller" for the year. I can manage that!

We did this as children when we visited Granny in Murton around Easter and the paste Egg making and breaking was always an enjoyable ritual. Granny did some with candle wax resist and cochineal dye in the pan. These had our names written on them in white where the wax had been.

According to "England in Particular" , paste/pace comes from old scottish or french for Easter.

I hope that you all enjoy a happy and peaceful time this weekend, whatever you choose to roll,

Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 2 April 2009


When we arrived in Tunisia at Monastir Airport we were met by the Thomas Cook "Welcomer" who handed us over to Ridha, our guide. He took us to the minibus and introduced us to Hamadi, our driver. Then we left on our tour. We were the only ones! I would love to advise you all on how to get such a personalised tour for the normal package holiday rate but I think we just flooked it. We had three days of Hamadi driving us and Ridha guiding us wherever and whenever we wished to go.

Ridha will be disappointed to find that his back is in the picture. He is a young, intelligent, well educated and attractive man and is looking for a lovely wife, a bit like myself but shorter and much younger! His favourite expression was " Do you mind? What is this?" What he meant was "Do you Know?" etc. I answered as best I could and was rewarded by his appreciation. Ridha, if you read this, You are wonderful and I hope that you find your dreams.
Ridha is walking us along one of the Roman roads at Bulla Regia. The quarrying of the far hill gives you some idea of the amount of stone removed to build the town. The remains of the towns we visited all had great streets with chariot wheel ruts, houses, theatres, baths, drains, markets and more.

The El Jem amphitheatre holds 35,000 but this mini-model at Dougga only holds 3,500. Ridha was good at getting us up early so that we visited the sites before anyone else had even had breakfast. This picture really is a "Roman Ruin" with no-one else there at
Much of the Roman remains were the same and we went from World Heritage Site to World Heritage Site. It was all fascinating and we trod the old roads, admired the old capitols, bath houses, mausoleums, markets, brothels, theatres and houses and marvelled at the engineering.
The drainage systems were well advanced and "Do you mind? What is this?"

Yes!!! It's a toilet. It is in the floor of a house and leads directly to the sewer which flowed beneath the road outside. Well either that or it's a baptismal font but it's a bit small and domestic-looking for that. We saw a few of those too and they needed water so were also attached to the aquaducts.

This might be the oldest olive tree in Tunisia. I bought some locally crafted olive-wood kitchen implements. They reckon this one was planted in Roman times at Dougga.

In the end Dave got sick of piles of stones just lying around and decided to set up a stall in an old Roman market place at Thurburbo Majus. These ones are cheap but "pick-up" only.

We then went on to the second half of the holiday which was "all inclusive". Wow, I have never done this before and it was amazing. We stayed at Les Orangers in Hammamet and were fed, wined, dined, waited on hand and foot and even towels provided at indoor and outdoor pools and beach. All inclusive is what it says.

We're going back! Tunisia was wonderful and there are still so many more things to see and do.

Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


This kit was first offered to me at 80Dt from a stall outside the Bardo Museum so I wondered if it was really "Roman". Anyway it was eventually purchased for about 20Dt. I cannot find a "where it was made" sticker and so it could well be another Chinese product. Most things in Tunisia are made at home, but it's hard to tell. An embroidered top I really liked was made in Thailand and the leather jackets are often Chinese. We enjoyed the Bardo Museum and the mosaics that have been rescued and brought there to be restored. There are some splendid examples of Roman mosaics at the museum in St Albans in the UK but the Bardo has acres of them and an amazingly great variety on display.

The Andalucian style tiles are shown here on the walls and ceilings and.....

...amazing Roman tile tableaus are on the walls here...

....and here. Signs of the zodiac, fish of the sea, hunting scenes and lots more.

The small tessela are quite well coloured in Roman mosaics but the Phoenician/Punic designs are black/cream and rely on geometric forms for their designs. This picture of the abundant fish of the Mediterranean is a sad reflection of how richly endowed the seas were a couple of thousand years ago.
Ruins to come!!!
Cheers Gillian

TONS MORE ABOUT TUNISIA and holidays like that

The first day we arrived in Tunisia we were taken to the Barcelo Carthage Thalasso Hotel, in Gammarth. This photo shows the entrance atrium. The rest of the decor was about the same!The whole place was pretty splendid. We did the first half of the holiday as "Full Board". This means that all meals are provided even if you are on your way from one place to the next. This happened for lunch on a couple of occasions and we enjoyed excellent food at all times. Drinks are extra and are paid for as you leave. The Barcelo in Gammarth was a real treat. Even the chef was pleased with his buffet and came out of the kitchen to take photos. There were more chefs on duty at the cook-as-you-want-it buffet than diners.

This is part of the dining room as we were about to leave after breakfast and continue our Roman Ruins Tour.

This is the gate between "old" and "new" Tunis. On this side is the Medina and on the other side is the French styled section of boulevards, Parisian cafes and modern buildings.

We visited Sidi Bou Said which is close to Tunis and is a picturesque village on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean. As we walked down from a coffee break at a cafe on the hill we passed a funeral procession going uphill to the cemetery at the top. It was on foot because of the steep and narrow road and about a hundred men took turns running to the front and shouldering the coffin. I did not take a pic of that but this is the road they climbed.

We sat in the cafe here and had coffees. Others were smoking water-pipes and although we were offered the opportunity to do so, I chose not to. The views were amazing and the bill for two coffees for us and a juice for our guide in this favourite tourist spot was only 7.80Dt or 3.90GBP.

The next post will be about the Roman mosaics. I need to sort out where we went and what photos are what before I can describe the ruins.
I have been knitting and will and post stuff about that later.
I went to work on Monday. It was fine. I wasn't needed for the rest of the week so will hopefully get more work after Easter. The children are described as "exhibiting challenging behaviours". It gets a bit boring because the challenges are very repetitive. Because I was new I unsettled the little stability that had been established in the classes I was in. It will take time for them to accept me. Maybe then I can be of more use.
Cheers Gillian