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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 115 / Christmas 2019 and January 2020

Dear Friend,

Lords a-leaping pipes and drums

Have you ever thought that by the end of the 12 days of Christmas, if your True Love is as generous as ever, she will have given to you 12 partridges in pear trees, 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds, 40 gold rings, 42 geese a-laying, 42 swans a-swimming, 40 maids a-milking, 36 ladies dancing, 32 lords a-leaping, 22 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming?

That’s no fewer than 184 birds and, assuming that each milkmaid needs something to milk, 40 cows, neatly sidestepped by 36 dancing ladies. Add to that those 32 hyperactive members of the aristocracy and the cacophony of the 34-strong pipe and drum band and the 36 calling birds, and it’s going to be a very interesting Christmas...

Writing at the watermill
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race

We will be spending a quieter Christmas in Florence this year, just the four of us: Lois and Bill and our two daughters Lydia and Lara. The girls are 23 and 21 now and don’t believe in Santa anymore: I guess you could call them rebels without a Claus! (Sorry about that.)

We are planning to have a convivial Christmas Day lunch with Italian friends in a local restaurant and, celebrating Lois’ Scottish roots, a Hogmanay ceilidh in our apartment. The haggis has already been flown in from the auld country and we’re brushing up our pas de basques.

Writing at the watermill
The sun breaks through on a misty morning.
Note the cement mixer!

At the Watermill, we have removed the tiles from the frantoio roof and made an anti-earthquake protective concrete collar around the top of the walls. Now we will replace the roof beams and use as many of the old tiles as we can in renovating the roof. All the air conditioning units have arrived and Karsten and our photovoltaic expert, architect Stefano Santini, will supervise the delicate task of putting them in all our rooms and joining everything together with the least possible disruption.

Bookings for next year’s creative courses are flowing in: some 200 people are already signed up for 2020, so, as we always say at this time of year, now really is the time to reserve you place, to be sure of the tutor and bedroom of your choice. Booking now also enables you to take advantage of our Early Bird Discount Offer, of £75 (British pounds) off every one of our 2020 creative courses, if you book by the end of 2019. But, as you can see from the figures above, our courses are filling fast, so don’t wait too long to make your reservation. Treat yourself to a Christmas/New Year present for a 2020 week you will never forget.

In this newsletter there are stories on:

  • Recipe of the month: parmesan lollipops
  • A guest’s pictorial memory of a ‘breathtaking’ location
  • Monet’s bridge, with and without Monsieur Monet
  • Mind the gap: your viewers will see more
  • Advance to a knitting retreat
  • Marks and Gran: pointless celebrity
  • Things only Italians have words for

Happy reading....

The pictures above and below this introductory section are top left: 10 lords a-leaping. (Picture: Getty Images); Top right: Massed Scottish pipe and drums. Bottom Left: Christmas at the Duomo in Florence; Bottom Right: Christmas lights in our corner of the city.

Christmas Lights in Florence

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
Bring your partner,
even if he’s acurmudgeon!

Bring a partner: there's plenty for them to do

They don’t have to participate in the course, but they will be able to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the mill and, whenever they want, to come out with you to our beautiful locations.

We also offer a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

Recipe of the month: parmesan lollipops

When time is a premium and you have guests popping in for drinks, this is my 'go to' nibble-with-a-wow-factor. Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Grate parmesan (I just pop a chunk in a blender, to save time) - 75g will make 15 or so small lollipops. With a teaspoon make small heaps of the cheese on your greaseproof paper, leaving room for the cheese to spread into a circle. Lie the end of a cocktail stick in each pile. Put in oven for 7 minutes, removing when bubbling and just on the turn to golden brown. Leave to cool slightly and stiffen. Serve, hegdehog style, pierced into half an apple or orange.

Catherine’s memories of Monte dei Bianchi

Painting by Catherine Robbin

Following a blog and Facebook slideshow we made about our Friday location at the ancient hilltop village of Monte dei Bianchi, Watermill guest Catherine Robbin, who was with us last October, sent us a picture she painted on her day there.

She says: “Such a breathtakingly beautiful village location.” Thank you for sharing your picture with us Catherine.

Painting Venues

Why don’t you come and see Monte dei Bianchi for yourself, as well as our other stunning painting locations? We’ll also be visiting an imposing castle with a village huddled around it, market day in a walled mediaeval town and a tranquil cloistered 17th century monastery. (We take our writing, knitting and Italian language guests to visit these locations too.)

We would be delighted to welcome you here and, as well as providing the Watermill’s renowned hospitality, we would also love to show you the breathtaking scenery of the unspoiled region of Tuscany that surrounds us. Come and share the Watermill experience, and make your own memories that will linger on. You can find out more by clicking here.

Painting by Chris Hughes

Monet’s bridge, with and without Monsieur Monet

One of the most popular of our Facebook posts in December featured this picture by Watermill painting tutor Chris Hughes. We like pictures that tell a story. Or rather, pictures that invite you to make up your own story. Chris’s atmospheric oil painting certainly does that. It is of Claude Monet’s garden and lake at Giverny, and if you look carefully at the bridge in the background you will see Claude painting away.

I wonder what happened next?

Painting by Monet

Do you think Madame Monet called him in for lunch, but he was so engrossed trying to capture his waterlilies that he didn’t hear her? It took three shouts, each becoming louder and less patient, to rouse him. He pottered slowly, enlivened by the smell of cassoulet drifting across the garden, and, taking off his hat, entered his tranquil blue kitchen...

See what I mean? Here’s the bridge sans Monet. (He couldn’t be in the picture, since he was painting it, replete with cassoulet perhaps.)

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Mind the gap to improve your painting, says Carl March

Painting by Carl March

Our watercolour tutor Carl March has sent this simple little tip to enhance your paintings of trees.

He says: “When painting foliage, leave ‘gaps’ in your painting lines. For example, do not paint every detail, leave gaps between some of the branches and twigs when suggesting dense foliage. This will give the image a ‘lift’ and look more realistic.”

The picture above right shows the final picture. And below, we have some illustrations of the process.

Painting Trees Carl's way

Carl says: “After the ‘wet on wet’ stages are dry, complete all the trees with same colour and strength of tone. Take care not to paint every detail, leaving gaps within the branches and twigs. Then paint the foreground tree with the same strength of colour, again leaving gaps from the previous stages for leaves and twigs. Finally, add the stronger colours with thicker paint, plus adding finer details.”

Carl March

Carl’s week with us next year is called ‘Drawing and Painting for Pleasure’. It will run from 18-25 April 2020. As well as being an inspiring painter, Carl is also a great teacher. He says: “I love the genuine satisfaction in passing on my knowledge to others. For example, demonstrating a ‘step by step’ exercise, then witnessing students repeat the exercise for themselves. Suddenly the penny drops, and it all makes sense. Surely this is the real reward for any teacher.”

Here’s a comment from a previous student: “Carl has a gentle but effective way of teaching and we have learnt a lot from. Most importantly, however, under his guidance the class always becomes a very sociable and happy group. Quite simply, his classes are not only well planned and informative but also great fun.”

We already have nine people signed up for Carl’s 2020 course at the Watermill, so we have room for three or four more painters (and their non-painting partners, if they’d like to join them.) You can find out more about Carl at his course at the Watermill by clicking here.

Painting by Carl March

If you’d like to come on Carl’s course, now really is the time to book. And don’t forget our Early Bird discount offer: if you book before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (British pounds) per person discount on this fabulous 2020 painting holiday.

We would love you to join us here this spring. As well as trees and foliage in the glorious Lunigiana countryside, we will no doubt also paint some daffodils:

Painter of the month: Mary Padgett, a passionate pastellist

Painting by Mary Padgett

Our new Watermill painting tutor Mary Padgett, from Syracuse, New York, USA, is not only passionate about pastels, but remarkable for her use of colour and for her enthusiasm for painting on location. She says: “There is no better way to visit Italy than as a plein air artist! We’ll focus on observation with all our senses; looking, listening, and smelling the unique character of the Tuscan landscape to create drawings and paintings from the experience. Our time in Italy will be richer than that of most tourists who simply pass through.”

Mary’s plein air pastel above, A Tuscan Hillside, celebrates the rhythmic pattern of dark vertical cypress juxtaposed against soft, organic blue-green olive trees, and the geometric shapes of terracotta roofs. Below is another subtle pastel, San Martino a Mensola, inspired by “bright spring light bouncing through the sky and the exquisite asymmetrical balance of the two cypress with the larger church building.”

Painting by Mary Padgett

Mary’s students love her teaching. As one of them says: “Your gentle nudges have given us all better way of seeing.”  Another says: “You went out of your way to help beginners as well as more advanced artists.”

Mary says: “My role is to create a supportive working environment, encouraging creative exploration, and furthering each participant's evolution as an artist.”

Mary Padgett

Mary’s week-long course in pastels* will run from Saturday 26 September to Saturday, 3 October 2020. *While pastels are her passion (and she will work in soft pastels during her week-long course at the Watermill), Mary is also happy to teach in other portable media, too, such as oils and acrylics, in which she is also a skilled practitioner.

You can learn more about Mary and her course at the Watermill by clicking here. Here is another glorious pastel, of an Italian terrace, to whet your appetite.

At present, we still have plenty of places left on Mary’s course, so if you, too, are a passionate pastellist, come and join Mary for more inspiration in the Tuscan countryside. And treat yourself to a Christmas present, with our Early Bird Discount Offer: £75 (Britsh pounds, about US$90) off this inspiring 2020 painting course if you book before 31 December 2019.

Our sympathetic, caring, inspiring 2020 painting tutors

We have exciting new tutors, as well as old friends, for our 2020 painting courses. Choose a tutor, a medium or a date that suits you best – but hurry, places are filling fast. And don’t forget: if you book as a participant on any one of our 2020 creative courses before 31 December 2019, you can enjoy our Early Bird discount of £75 GBP (seventy-five British pounds).

Carl March

Carl March
18 - 25 April 2020- still a few places
Drawing and watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth
25 April - 2 May 2020 - still a couple of places
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown - fully booked, waiting list open
16 - 23 May 2020
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Sandra Strohschein

Sandra Strohschein
30 May - 6 June 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
6 - 13 June 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Sandra and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Randy Hale

Randy Hale
13 - 20 June 2020 - still a couple of places
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
20 - 27 June 2020 - still plenty of places
Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes
27 June – 4 July 2020 - still plenty of places
Watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Chris and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Mark Warner

Mark Warner
11 - 18 July 2020 - still plenty of places
Colourful Acrylics, Drawing, Pen & Wash
To learn more about Mark and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
29 August – 5 September 2020 - still a few places
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Rebecca de Mendonça

Rebecca de Mendonça
5 - 12 September 2020 - still a few places
Pastels and Mixed media
To learn more about Rebecca and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Maggie Renner Hellmann

Maggie Renner Hellmann
12 - 19 September 2020 - still plenty of places
19 - 26 September 2020 - still plenty of places
Courageous Color Workshop’ in oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels
To learn more about Maggie and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Mary Padgett

Mary Padgett
26 September - 3 October 2020 - still plenty of places
Pastels (and other portable media) en plein air
To learn more about Mary and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Milind Mulick

Milind Mulick
3 - 10 October 2020 - still a few places
Colourful watercolours
To learn more about Milind and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
10 – 17 October 2020 - still a few places
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2020 Profile Page.

Come and join us and enjoy the magic at the mill!

Why not bring your non-painting partner as well?

There’s a generous £250 discount for him/her if they share a room with you - and there’s plenty for them to do. Have a look at our Partner’s Activities Page for suggestions.

Watermill in Italy's Knitting NewsKNITTING NEWS

Advance to our knitting retreat

Knitting groups at the watermill in Tuscany

Many of our knitting guests at the Watermill have asked over the years whether it would be possible to run a knitting retreat here, in which there would be no tutor, but rather individual knitters would bring their own projects and enjoy convivial, like-minded company in the peaceful ambience of the Watermill, as well as our usual offering of wonderful food and outings into the surrounding unspoiled Tuscan countryside of Lunigiana.

So, by popular demand, we have done just that. And it has proved to be by popular demand: 11 people and now already booked in, one of whom is a non-knitting partner. We have two bedrooms left, the Fra Angelico and Ghiberti, so, we can take two more knitters and their non-knitting partners if they would like to come too. Since there is no official tutor, we are offering a special blanket discount of £200 per person.

Knitting retreat at the watermill in Tuscany

We have two other Knitting and la Bella Vita weeks next year, with Louisa Harding and Renée Callahan. We have 11 knitters and four non-knitting partners booked into Louisa’s week at the end of May, so we are full up. But there are often cancellations, so if you’re interested, please get in touch and we will put you on a waiting list. Currently, we still have plenty of spaces on our other tutor-led knitting week, with Renée, although six people are already booked in and, as we go to press, another couple are in the pipeline.

Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
23 - 30 May 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Knitting retreat

Knitting Retreat
4 - 11 July 2020 - two knitting places left
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about this retreat, please visit our 2020 Retreat Overview Page.

Renée Callahan

Renée Callahan
15 - 22 August 2020 - still plenty of places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Renée and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.

Knitting group at the watermill in Italy

Don't forget your partner!

And don’t forget that your friend or partner doesn’t need to participate in the creative course, whether it’s painting, language or writing.

We offer them a range of Alternative activities for partners on all our 2020 courses, as well as a generous £GBP 250 discount if they share a room with you.

Creative writing News at the watermill in ItalyCREATIVE WRITING NEWS

Scriptwriters Marks and Gran: Pointless celebrities

Pointless celebrities TV show

Our scriptwriting duo, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, were recently seen as contestants on the popular BBC1’s Pointless Celebrities, a quiz show in which contestants try to score as few points as possible by plumbing the depths of their general knowledge to come up with the answers no-one else can.

They say: “Pointless Celebrities, which often features people you’ve heard of, has become a surprise Saturday night hit for the BBC, so we felt honoured to finally be invited onto this show.” Their episode was recorded at Elstree Studios, the home of some of their biggest successes: “Our company ALOMO Productions had its offices at Elstree, and Birds of a Feather, Love Hurts and Goodnight Sweetheart were all produced there. Our fellow celebrities included several best-selling authors, one worst-selling author, and a newspaper editor who forgot her contact lenses and couldn’t really see the board.”

Laurence and Maurice add, tongues firmly in cheeks: “We had done a great deal of preparation, swotting on our specialised subjects, Pre-Christian Armenian Architecture, and Prince Philip’s Contribution to International Diplomacy. Unfortunately, we had completely misunderstood the rules of the game, so our revision was indeed pointless.”

Marks and Gran, described by the British Comedy Society as ‘living legends,’ are the inspiring tutors for our Scriptwriting course at the Watermill this spring and if you aspire to scriptwriting success in television, radio and stage, you will find their week far from pointless. They will be with us from Saturday 2 May to Saturday 9 May 2020.

Laurence and Maurice at the watermill in Italy

Laurence and Maurice are famous for such TV hits as Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, The New Statesman and Shine on Harvey Moon. And in a new incarnation, they’ve written hit stage musicals, such as Dreamboats and Petticoats and Save the Last Dance for Me, as well as film scripts and award-winning stage, TV and radio plays. And it’s not just comedy: Marks and Gran are producing serious dramatic works as well. They are currently engaged in writing a series, with Michael Dobbs, (the creator of House of Cards) on Winston Churchill’s secret and mysterious wartime valet!

Their unique course at the Watermill will give you insights into writing comedy and drama, and it will help you to craft your work from original idea to final script. While the course will focus on scriptwriting, the insights into structure, plotting, characterisation, dialogue etc. are applicable to any genre. Laurence and Maurice promise you will leave a much better writer than when you came! But if you want to grab your place, you’d better get a move on: we already have 11 participants, so there’s room for only one more.

And don’t forget our other creative writing course next year: Jo Parfitt returns with her Write Your Life Stories course, which will run from Saturday 9 May to Saturday 16 May 2020. You can learn more by clicking here.

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt is an author, journalist, teacher, blogger, conference speaker and poet. She has published 32 books herself, has helped more than 100 authors into print and more than 1,000 people to begin writing.Jo's a compassionate, inspiring, and encouraging teacher: her motto is 'sharing what I know to help others to grow'.

The workshop will include several methods and genres and is perfect for anyone wanting to write about their own lives for an effective journal, memoir or blog. If you would enjoy an injection of inspiration in a safe and supportive environment this course is for you.

Our enriching 2020 writing courses

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran
2 – 9 May 2020 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Laurence and Maurice and their course at the mill, please visit their 2020 Profile Page.

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
2 – 9 May 2020 - one place remaining
Write the stories of your life
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2020 Profile Page.



The Italians have a word for it. Other languages don’t


There are quite a few words in Italian that really don’t have any simple translation into English (or other languages, come to that.) For instance, abbiocco: that drowsy feeling after a meal. But don’t worry. There is always meriggiare, the verb for taking a rest in the shade.

And who at the Italians would have a specific work for the marks left by a wet glass on the tablecloth: culaccino?

So, don’t be a pantofolaio -- someone who stays at home and rarely goes out (the word come from pantofole, slippers), but come and join us and learn more about this wonderful language on our unique Italian language course this autumn?

Francesca in the watermill garden

We are teamed up again with Langues Services and our old friend Francesca la Sala for a week in which you can learn Italian in the most natural and enjoyable way ever, meeting Italian people and interacting with their everyday lives. The course will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. Not only will there be formal lessons under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), but we’ll also be making trips and excursions to enjoy the natural beauty of Lunigiana, the area surrounding the mill, to explore its history and culture, to sample its traditional foods – and above all, to meet the people, speaking Italian, practising what we’ve learned.

Conosco i miei polli

Your immersion into the language and culture of real Italians will be customised for you, to suit your curiosity and your interests, helping you to treasure everything you learn and make it a seamless part of who you are. You will have the perfect opportunity to make new friends in the company of like-minded people learning and improving their Italian language skills... and enjoying unspoilt Italy and, of course, fantastic food and wine. When it comes to speaking Italian, you will find that Francesca knows her chickens.


Our Italian Language week will run from Saturday 22 August to Saturday 29 August 2020. You can find out more by clicking here. We already have eight people booked into this course, so we only have room for four or so more. If you’d like to join us and be sure of your place, now is the time to book especially with that Early Bird Discount Offer: if you book before 31 December 2019 there’s a £75 (British pounds) per person discount.

It will be rocambolesco.

With acknowledgements and thanks to the Huffington Post for the captioned illustrations.

Francesca la SalaLangues Services and Francesca la Sala
22 - 29 August 2020 - still a few places
Learning Italian with the Italians
To learn more about Francesca and her
2020 course at the mill, please click here.

The watermill in Italy's newsletter specialsNEWSLETTER SPECIALS

Everything's included in your watermill painting holiday, creative writing holiday, knitting week or Italian Language course

Don’t forget that everything is included in the cost of a painting holiday, writing, knitting, or language holiday: tuition, accommodation (including all linen and towels), pre-dinner aperitifs, all meals and local transportation (including transfers to Pisa airport; an excursion by train to visit the ancient walled city of Lucca or the stunning seaside villages of the Cinque Terre).

All you have to do is to get to Pisa airport and we do the rest.

Whether you're travelling alone or with a partner you can be sure of a warm welcome, and that you'll be well looked after. We have built our reputation on the comfort of the mill and the care we provide.

Become a Friend of The Watermill at Posara

Visit our Friends Website (Link below). Just follow the instructions to Register as a Friend and then Log In to enjoy special privileges. If you become a ‘Friend’ (it will cost you nothing) you’ll enjoy many exclusive benefits, including dozens of practical and inspiring tips from our international painting and creative writing tutors and recipes from the watermill’s mouth-watering menus. And there will be exclusive offers for Friends to make our courses and holidays even more attractive.

Thank you for reading the watermill in Italy's newsletterTHANK YOU

We very much look forward to welcoming you to the mill and, for those of you who have already tasted the many delights at The Watermill at Posara, we look forward to welcoming you back.

Your hosts at the watermill, Italy

With very best wishes a tutti

Your hosts at the watermill in Tuscany

Lois and Bill Breckon