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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 132 / June 2021

Dear Friend,

Flowers found in the watermill gardens in Tuscany, Italy

Well, here we are in June already, a mere three weeks or so to the year’s longest day. And we are still waiting for the bureaucrats and politicians to clarify matters, so that we can, at last, welcome our guests again to our inspiring creative holidays. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks all should become clear, and with infection rates dropping rapidly and vaccination rates escalating, we should be free to open up again.

Like us, people are seeing the green light at the end of the dark tunnel and are beginning to book for our creative weeks away from it all in the heart of unspoiled Tuscany. In total, we have more than 150 people who have made a booking for the 2021 season. We would love you to join them for inspiring tuition, beautiful surroundings spectacular scenery, warm hospitality, delicious food and wine – and the convivial company of like-minded people. Watermill creative courses refresh the parts that other holidays cannot reach. We are planning our exciting Grand Reawakening, from the beginning of July onwards.

There’s more about our 2021 creative courses on our Watermill website: Just click here.

We will still be running our running our weekly interactive online painting courses for the next couple of weeks, and our new Watermill Patrons club, to allow those who love the Watermill to play an even greater part in its future, is attracting increasing attention. (There are more details of both these ventures below.)

The Watermill in Tuscany connected online
For more about our online courses, please click here.
For more about rewards of becoming a Watermill Patron, plase click here

In this month’s newsletter we have stories on:

  • counting Ferdinando’s bees
  • our bees are always busy
  • join in our last two online, interactive painting sessions
  • this season we’re opening up a second painting week at the Watermill for Tim
  • how more and more men are enjoying the soothing benefits of knitting
  • literary OHS and AWS
  • how to order spaghetti without opening your mouth

Happy reading!

Last month saw the filling of our window boxes and the tubs in the Watermill courtyard. There are some pictures of the flowers we have planted above and below this introductory section. By the time our guests arrive, everything will be blooming marvellous! Oh, and the figs are beginning to grow, too. Top left: petunias; top right: lobelia; bottom left: dipladenia; bottom Right: early figs along the millstream path.

Spring gardens at the watermill in Italy

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
Those were the days
enjoying the carefree 1950s.
No helmets! No facemasks

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.

Alls quite in Florence
Also in the picture
painting tutor Terry Jarvis
is showing a picture
he made of Flavio’s scooter

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.

Picture Top right: cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

We can also take you for a ride on one of gardener Flavio’s vintage Vespas....
.... but we’ll insist you wear a helmet for the ride.

Counting Ferdinando’s bees

Counting Ferdinando's bees

20 May was World Bee Day, although we must admit the occasion might have passed us by had it not been for a Facebook post by our friend and Florence tour guide Freya Middleton, who told us again about the intriguing bee plaque on the statue of Ferdinando I de 'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, mounted on his horse in the wonderful piazza della Santissima Annunziata in the centre of Florence. That’s the Grand Duke above, in all his equestrian glory. The statue was created by the great French sculptor Giambologna and finished by his pupil Pietro Tacca in the early 17th century. Our montage also shows the view that Ferdinando has of Florence cathedral, and the famous bees. Here they are in close-up:

Ferdinando's Bees

Freya takes up the story: “On the sculpture’s pedestal is a bronze plaque featuring concentric circles of bees, surrounding one larger central bee. This is emblematic of Ferdinando’s motto Maiestate Tantum, Latin for “Great Majesty,” which also appears on the plaque.

“Symbolic bee themes were prevalent in Medieval and Renaissance iconography and symbolized solidarity, industriousness, and devotion. However, the underlying message conveyed by the bee motif in the pedestal of the Equestrian Statue of Grand Duke Ferdinando I, was the Medici ideal of an autocratic government, since the bees focus on the one central queen bee, the beneficent provider to worker bees.

“The bees form a series of concentric circles and it's not easy to count them all. Hence the legend was born in Florence that it is not possible to count bees the first time you try, without touching or pointing at them.

“Traditionally, it brings luck to guess correctly on your first attempt and today, after 400 years, Florentines and tourists still try to count them."

And countless Florentine mothers through the ages have found bee-counting a great way to keep their rowdy children quiet! Are you going to have a go from the photograph? (Here’s a Latin clue: XC+regina.)

The bees are always busy here

a watermill bee by Ron Ploeg

Speaking of bees, as you probably know the Watermill is in two environmentally protected parks: the National Park of the Apennines and the regional Park of the Appuan Alps, so the air is pure, the water fresh and the area abounds in wildlife, not least the bees which we see in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Over the years they’ve been the subject of many wonderful photographs and we thought it would be fun to show you some of them again.

Above right is a tremendous photograph by Watermill guest Ron Ploeg, while below, there's a collection of various bees in various flower (wisteria, artichoke and passionflower), taken over the years.

The Watermill bees

More rewards for our Watermill patrons

View our patreon page
You can enjoy patronage perks by clicking here

Our Watermill Patrons, members of the creative community of convivial like-minded people who subscribe monthly to receive regular videos keeping them up to date on all our activities, together with top tips from our renowned creative tutors, podcasts giving insights into Italian life, and, of course, delicious recipes from the Watermill kitchen. And there are other perks, such as free access to some of our live, interactive online painting sessions and discounts for our renowned residential creative courses here at the mill. You will have your say, too, on future exciting projects at the Watermill.

Patrons videos
You can watch the teaser video
by clicking here

We have already built up a library of a dozen or so videos, podcasts and blogs, to which our patrons have exclusive access. Lois recently made a teaser about one of the latest videos, to show what you are missing if you haven’t joined up. It’s an update of some of our recent activities at the Watermill, including fox-spotting, stocking the courtyard flower vases with new blooms, sorting old industrial artefacts for our new museum and the secrets of cleaning old wine-making demijohns. (The Italians have a special brush, of course.) To view the teaser, please just click here.

We would like to persuade you not just to view the teaser video but also to become a Watermill patron yourself, and add your vibrancy to our international community. The first step is to click here to take you to the Patreon site to see an introductory video and read more. Then join up to become part of our new Watermill adventures.

Our online interactive painting season is coming to an end (but we’ll start again in the autumn)

Join Randy Hale for a watermill online course
Join Randy to paint a glorious Tuscan vista

We will continue to run our online Thursday sessions until the second week of June, before our Grand Re-Awakening in July. Please just click here for more details. As you read this newsletter, you’ll probably still have time to enroll on Randy Hale’s session on Thursday 3 June, where you’ll be painting the wonderful Tuscan vista (above) along with Randy.

"There’s just something magical we’re compelled to capture (as painters) when wandering through the back alleys of Tuscany," says Randy. "Watercolor is a perfect medium to capture the patina we find in the sun-drenched stucco façades and clay rooftops. But a watercolor painting really sings when we present an impression instead of a literal rendition." You can register here.

Mike's final online session - cafe scene

And our final session of this online season will be taken by our friend and great teacher Mike Willdridge, who started the whole thing off many months ago.

For his final subject this season, Mike has chosen an attractive café scene in his home town of Poundbury in the south of England. (See his practice picture above.) He says: "As important as what you put in is what you leave out," and he shows you how to simplify a scene when you paint. "Focus on what you consider important," he says and he will talk you through how to do just that. You can register here.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

Painting tutor of the month: Tim Wilmot - we’ve opened up a new week!

Paintings by Tim Wilmot

We are delighted to tell you that Tim Wilmot’s painting course at the Watermill, from 2 to 9 October 2021, is now almost full, so we have opened up an extra week for him, from 25 September to 2 October 2021. If you would like to reserve your place with this very popular tutor, now is the time to book. There are details and links below.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot is an artist from Bristol in the UK, specialising in watercolours, exploiting the medium with tone and light. Tim says: “I seem to have an affinity with painting landscapes, although I have dabbled with portraits and still life in the past, but always come back to landscapes. I prefer a loose or impressionistic style when I paint, and I hope you like their informality.” His vibrant picture above is of the Watermill and river Rosaro flowing by.

Painting by Tim Wilmot
Painters in the Watermill garden,
captured by Tim Wilmot

As well as being an exciting artist, Tim is also an inspiring teacher and on his course, suitable for all levels, he’ll help you to improve your drawing skills and, loosen up your style, teach you how to incorporate figures in a landscape, as well as nurturing you own artistic ambitions.

Here’s a comment from a student on Tim’s last course at the Watermill: “Everything was perfect, your welcome, the luxurious accommodation, and the delicious food, Tim’s tuition was first-class and it was lovely to be able to sit and paint all day.”

Our inspiring 2021 painting tutors

Here is the complete list of our painting tutors for this year. You can find out more about each of them by clicking on their Profile page link in their entries below.

Vicki Norman

Vicki Norman
3 - 10 July 2021 - four or five places remaining
Oils and watercolours (and other mediums)
To learn more about Vicki and her course at the mill, please visit her 2021 Profile Page.

Carl March

Carl March
10 - 17 July 2021 - three or four places remaining
Drawing and watercolours en plein air
To learn more about Carl and his course at the mill, please visit his 2021 Profile Page.

Randy Hale

Randy Hale
21 - 28 August 2021 - three or four places remaining
To learn more about Randy and his course at the mill, please visit his 2021 Profile Page.

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
28 August - 4 September 2021 - four or five places remaining
4 – 11 September 2021 - two or three places remaining
Watercolour and drawing (also gouache and acrylics)
To learn more about Mike and his course at the mill, please visit his 2021 Profile Page.

Milind Mulick

Milind Mulick
11 - 18 September 2021 - two or three places remaining
Colourful watercolours
To learn more about Milind and his course at the mill, please visit his 2021 Profile Page.

Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown
18 - 25 September 2021 - fully booked, waiting list open
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2021 Profile Page.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
25 September – 2 October 2021 - NEW! plenty of places
2 – 9 October 2021 - one place remaining
To learn more about Tim and his course at the mill, please visit his 2021 Profile Page.

Ali Hargreaves

Ali Hargreaves
9 - 16 October 2021 - one or two places remaining
To learn more about Ali and her course at the mill, please visit her 2021 Profile Page.

Grahame Booth

Grahame Booth
23 - 30 October 2021 - four places remaining
To learn more about Grahame and his course at the mill, please visit his 2021 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

More and more men are enjoying the soothing benefits of knitting

Brendan Girak
Picture: The Guardian

We read an interesting story in the UK newspaper, The Guardian, recently about how increasing numbers of men took up knitting (or crochet) during the recent pandemic.

Among them Brendan Girak right. The first time he knitted in public, Brendan took a friend for support. “Lara and I went to a big park and that put my mind at ease,” the 28-year-old from Perth, Australia, says. “There weren’t that many people around and Lara’s a very confident person.” Knitting makes him calm: “It keeps my hands busy and stops me from being anxious. In the park, I was concentrating on what I was doing. I was being really mindful and in the moment.”

The Guardian reports that soon he was taking his yarn out in cafes, during college lectures, at the beach and down the pub -- and there are signs that other men may soon be joining him. Men account for 10% of Girak’s 65,000 followers on his Instagram account,@knitwitsandyarns. “A lot of men who knit have come out of the woodwork, ” he says. “What else do you do in lockdown?”

Tom Daley
Picture: The Guardian

The online community LoveCrafts reports a rise in young men crafting, with more than a third taking up some form of needleworkduring the pandemic, including knitting, crochet and sewing. The Guardian adds: “High-profile newcomers such as diver Tom Daley have recently joined their ranks. Daley came to crochet after his coach encouraged him to find a way to recuperate between dives.”

We haven’t any male guests yet on our two knitting courses at the Watermill this year but, of course, they would be more than welcome to join us for a relaxing, soothing, creative knitting week.

We are running two knitting courses this year: our first-ever knitting retreat, and the second, a tutored course with exclusive knitting projects, run by the renowned English knitting designer Louisa Harding.

Waiting for you
Wating for you

The Watermill knitting retreat will run from Saturday 17 July to Saturday 24 July 2021 and, since there is no official tutor, we are offering a special discount of £200 (UK pounds) per person. We already have eight knitters booked into this course, so we have room for four or so more. Instead of having a tutor, individual guests will bring their own projects to knit during the week. The rhythm of the week will be much the same as usual, with morning and afternoon sessions on the vine verandah or in the Watermill sitting room, where you will enjoy convivial like-minded company in the peaceful ambience of the Watermill. There is a link with more details below.

Louisa Harding

We are delighted also to welcome Louisa Harding, the celebrated cashmere knitter and yarn producer, to the Watermill knitting team. She’s established a new brand, called Yarntelier, combining the finest yarns from the English county of Yorkshire with beautiful designs, to make each item a piece of hand-crafted couture. She will bring some of these yarns to her course. Louisa is now planning the projects she will bring for our knitters during her week and is talking of a cashmere shawl, where you can draw on designs in the Tuscan countryside and incorporate them in your knitting; and another, smaller project, involving beading using a crochet hook. Louisa will be with us from Saturday 7 August to Saturday 14 August 2021 Again, there is a link to more details about her week below.

And don’t forget, you will be Cool and Green: all our rooms are air-conditioned, powered by photovoltaic panels which make us self-sufficient in electricity.

2021 knitting breaks

Knitting Retreat

Knitting retreat
17 - 24 July 2021 - three or four places
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about our knitting retreat week at the mill, please visit our 2021 Profile Page.

Louisa Harding

Louisa Harding
7 August - 14 August 2021 - four or five places remaining
Knitting and La Bella Vita
To learn more about Louisa and her course at the mill, please visit her 2021 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 2021 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

Literary AWS and OHS

Have you heard of the AWS and the OHS? We hadn’t until we read an article by Maeve Maddox online at She writes: “Several fictional characters are so memorable that their names have been attached to physical and psychological syndromes.”

Thus, AWS is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome: “One of the memorable aspects of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, is the way objects change size and shape. The Chesire Cat appears and disappears. The Duchess’s baby turns into a pig. In the Looking Glass, the Red Queen becomes a kitten and the White Queen turns into a sheep.”

Alls quite in Florence
One of Sir John Tenniel’s
original Alice illustrations

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, she writes, is a neurological condition that, in most cases, is related to migraine, but it can also be derived from brain tumours, viruses like Epstein Barr (a member of the herpes virus family), or even epilepsy. It causes hallucinations and visual image distortions. “This syndrome presents itself more frequently in children and, in some cases, they grow out of it. Because Lewis Carroll is known to have suffered from severe migraines, some writers have speculated that he may have drawn inspiration from his own symptoms.”

Alls quite in Florence
Fat Boy Joe
from Dickens’
Pickwick papers

OHS is Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome and if that doesn’t seem particularly literary to you, its other name is Pickwickian Syndrome. It is named after a fat boy called Joe in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, who is always falling asleep, no matter what excitement is going on around him. Maeve Maddox says: "It occurs when breathing is inadequate to rid the body of carbon dioxide in someone who is obese. It causes daytime sleepiness, intense headaches, shortness of breath, lethargy, and depression. Left untreated, OHS can even lead to heart failure, sexual dysfunction, hypertension, and even death”

Other syndromes, such as PPS, Peter Pan Syndrome, haven’t yet reached the medical dictionary.

We are sure that none of our newsletter readers are suffering from AWS or OHS, or even PPS, but it is fascinating how memorable fictional characters can enter into the real world. And perhaps in your lifetime you have met some colourful, curious characters who you can bring to life in your memoirs. Come and tell us all about them on Jo Parfitt’s Writing Your Life Stories week-long residential course at the Watermill this Summer. We already have eight people booked into this course, so there’s room for three or four more writers, and their partners if they’d like to come, too.

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'.

Her 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. It is appropriate for students of any level.

And don’t forget, you will be Cool and Green: all our rooms are air-conditioned, powered by photovoltaic panels which make us self-sufficient in electricity.

2021 Our uplifting creative writing course

Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt
14 – 21 August 2021 - two or three places remaining
Write your life stories
To learn more about Jo and her course at the mill, please visit her 2021 Profile Page.


How to order spaghetti without saying a word

It is well known that the Italians find it difficult to speak without using their hands (There’s a rumour that early telephone boxes were bigger in Italy than in the rest of Europe, to enable boys to ring their mother and communicate properly!)

But we never knew you could order spaghetti without opening your mouth. The video clip above, from our Italian language teacher Francesca la Sala shows you how.

Words and gestures from Francesca
Words and gestures from Francesca

For our week-long course, from Saturday 16 October to Saturday 23 October 2021 you’ll not only learn Italian words and phrases, but gestures too. You’ll meet Italian people and interact with their daily lives. There will be formal lessons under the vine verandah (some 20 hours in the week), and 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.

And if you want to see more Top Tips from Francesca about how to use hand gestures to communicate in Italian, then become a Watermill Patron for the full version of her video!

2021 Language Course

Francesca la SalaFrancesca la Sala
16 - 23 October 2021 - one place remaining
Learning Italian with the Italians
To learn more about Francesca and her
2021 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 Patron of The Watermill at Posara

Visit our Watermill Patrons website (Link below). Just follow the instructions to subscribe and enjoy special privileges. By becoming a Patron you’ll enjoy many exclusive benefits, including practical and inspiring tips from our international painting and creative writing tutors, recipes from the watermill’s mouth-watering menus, and podcasts on Italian life. And there are also exclusive offers at the higher tiers for our courses and holidays.

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