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NEWSLETTER ISSUE 134 / August 2021

Dear Friend,

Lois in the watermill garden

It’s a nightmare!’ That’s the heading in The Local, the online newspaper with Italian news in English. The paper is describing the decision of the Italian authorities - until the end of August - not to allow even double-jabbed British people to come to Italy without five days of self isolation when they arrive..

It is a decision that has ruined thousands of summer holidays, to say nothing of adding yet another blow to the Watermill’s attempts to run creative courses this year.

The move means that we have had to postpone until next year Jo Parfitt’s famous Writing Your Life Stories week and we apologise to all those who had booked and were unable to come. It is, as they say, completely outside our control.

Things look a little brighter for Randy Hale’s painting course towards the end of this month, since many of his students are Americans, who can now come and go to and from Italy with little or no restriction, as can people whose countries are in the European Union.

Our English friend and Watermill tutor Mike Willdridge, will be arriving early to self-isolate for five days before his course begins, just in case. Many of his students are from the USA or the EU, anyway, so they will be fine.

Similarly, we have many USA and European students for our painting courses later in the year and we are confident that we will be able to run them, as well as our unique Italian Language course with Francesca la Sala.

We really do wish you could join us! If you are American, a Canadian or a European there is nothing in officialdom to stop you. And we're fairly confident that there'll be no restrictions for those travelling from the UK from the beginning of September. It’s time to break away and enjoy some well-deserved freedom. There’s more about our 2021 creative courses on our Watermill website: Just click here.

In the meantime, Lois has been bitten by the gardening bug, and, as well as masses of weeding and path-clearing, has been installing new plants, from box balls to a miniature pomegranate and hollyhocks from seeds.

And don’t forget, 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.

Patrons receive regular exclusive videos keeping them up to date on all our activities and on top tips from our renowned creative tutors, podcasts giving insights into Italian life, and, of course, delicious recipes from the Watermill kitchen. We have already produced 20 or so items for our Watermill patrons. These items remain exclusive to patrons for two months before being put on ‘general release’ so others can enjoy them too. There is one of the videos below, a Top Tip from Watermill Tutor Randy Hale.

(Patrons themselves also enjoy other continuing exclusive 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. They have their say, too, on future exciting projects at the Watermill.)

In this month’s newsletter we have stories on:

  • top tip: paint what you see says Randy Hale
  • a much-travelled chimney pot
  • Elvis is alive and well and living in Posara
  • Nature’s amazing nectar producing plant
  • 30,000 kWh from the sun and still going strong
  • availability on our remaining 2021 creative courses

Happy reading!

The pictures above and below this introductory section are: top left: Lois planting; top right: Lois weeding; bottom: Saying it with flowers; bottom right; the sensational albizia tree stars in the walled garden.

Mill flowers!!

Come to the watermill in Tuscany with your partner or friend
Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan.
One of the greatest-ever love stories

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.

Randy's tips video
A still from Randy’s ‘lost and found’ video

Lost and found: what you see is what you paint

First off in our recently released Patrons’ perks is a fascinating Top Tip video by Watermill tutor Randy Hale on the secrets of ‘lost and found edges’ and how they can make all the difference to the quality of your painting. You can enjoy Randy’s video by clicking here.

Alls quite in Florence
A new watercolour of Posara by Randy Hale

Why don’t you, too, become a Watermill patron and be won the first two enjoy our videos, podcasts, recipes and all the news the daily life of the Watermill? Please click here to see an introductory video and hear more. Then join up to become part of our new Watermill adventures.

And why not come to meet Randy in person and paint along with him in the glorious scenery of rural Tuscany? He’s running an exciting course in watercolours from Saturday 21 August to Saturday 28 August. Hurry now to book your space! You deserve it! There are more details to be found by clicking here.

You can see and hear more of our entertaining recently released Patron podcasts and videos, recipes and reminiscences by following our Watermill blog. Please just click here.

From Scottish castle to Tuscan walled garden: travels with a chimney pot

Scottish castle chimneypot

This Watermill garden flowerpot has quite a history. It started life as a chimneypot in a Scottish castle in the wilds of Aberdeenshire and ended up in the walled garden of an ancient Italian Watermill in rural Tuscany.

We enjoyed living in the small, but beautifully formed, Castle of Park in the North of Scotland, but when we left, more than 10 years ago, we brought with us a mass of furniture, artefacts and accessories. Among them was the old chimney pot (right). It fell into the category ‘I’m not sure what we’ll do with this, but I’m sure will find a use for it someday’.

Well, that day has come, thanks to Lois’ new gardening bug. She pulled the chimneypot out of store (or rather Flavio our gardener did, it’s a heavy brute) and set it up in the walled garden. With the addition of a charming flowering plant bought in the weekly market in Fivizzano, e voilà, a new garden feature and conversation point.

We’d love you to come and see it for yourself. There are details of all our remaining 2021 creative courses on our website, which you can see by clicking here.

Elvis is alive and well and living in Posara

Elvis is alive and lives at the watermill in Tuscany

We thought we’d lost him! We thought he might have been mowed down or slashed with a machete, for there was no sign of him in his normal haunts... Elvis was lost to the world.

Elvis, you may recollect, is a small tortoise given to us by our friends Helen and Pasquale, whose three tortoises in their garden in Florence had become antagonistic to each other, with all sorts of slow-motion aggressive behaviour. In a peace-keeping mission, they gave Elvis to us a couple of years ago.

We sighted him from time to time pottering in the walled garden and noted that he had chosen a burrow in the warmth of the compost heap for his winter sleep. We saw him a couple of times when he woke this spring, but for the last few weeks he disappeared. He didn’t write, he didn’t call...

But now we are happy to report that Elvis is alive and well and living in the walled garden. He hasn’t fallen prey to the lawnmower, or the strimmer or the gardener’s machete.

One morning last month Bill was examining the bay bush which we have cut back ruthlessly in an attempt to produce a much more pleasant outline, and there in the centre, as Bill parted the branches, was the boy himself. He was so still that Bill feared he might be dead, but then he moved his little leathery head. (Elvis, that is, not Bill!)

We plucked him out and gave him some water and a fresh lettuce leaf, in which he seemed singularly uninterested, and Lois gave him a welcome-back tickle under his chin.

We have to say, in all honesty, that Elvis is the most boring pet we ever met. Throw a stick or a ball for him and he hardly moves, and we doubt that, had he had a lead, he would never have had a playful tug-of-war with us. Still, it is nice to have him back and we’ve always wanted to write a headline like the one above.

PS. Helen and Pasquale are a little embarrassed about the name. They wished they’d called him Dante or Michelangelo or some such high-powered Italian moniker. But we are happy he’s Elvis and are glad to see him from time to time, when he deigns to show himself.

Here's Elvis last summer looking much more sprightly:

Nature’s amazing nectar-producing machine

In this day and age, when we tend to worry about almost everything, there’s been some concern about the range of the new generation of electric cars and the speed with which we will be able to charge them . We are not among those worriers: battery technology is advancing so quickly that we’re sure that we are going to be able to recharge our cars’ propulsion systems even more quickly than using petrol pumps.

Borage at the watermill in Tuscany, Italy

All of which is a rather roundabout way of introducing you to one of nature’s great rechargers: the tiny borage flower. We have dozens of borage plants in our gardens, and we even use the flowers as a colourful garnish to our home-grown salads. (We don’t drink much Pimm’s these days, where borage was traditionally used as decoration: who needs Pimm’s when we have prosecco, Negroni and Aperol Spritz?)

But back to recharging. Did you know that when a bee has taken the nectar from one of the tiny blue flowers, the borage plant replenishes it all within two minutes? Now that’s what I call recharging!

30,000 kWhs and counting: the Watermill as a mini-power station!

Photovoltaic energy at the watermill

Last month our photovoltaic electricity-producing system passed another significant milestone: we have now clocked up more than 30,000 kWh (30 Mwh) of electricity produced directly from the sun. The picture, from our handy little monitoring app, shows the achievement. The section circled in brown shows that we had produced 30.056 MWh of electricity from our photovoltaic panels.

And what’s more, we have reduced the world’s carbon dioxide production by 21 tonnes. (Not much, it must be confessed in the face of China’s continuing building of coal-fired power stations, but at least we are doing our bit...)

Our arrays of photovoltaic panels, hidden away on our south-facing roofs overlooking the river make us totally self-sufficient in electricity generation, even powering the new air-conditioning units in all our bedrooms and public rooms. So we are Cool and Green.

Watermill in Tuscany's Painting NewsPAINTING NEWS

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.

Randy Hale

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

Mike Willdridge

Mike Willdridge
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.

Brienne M Brown

Brienne M Brown
18 - 25 September 2021 - four places remaining
To learn more about Brienne and her course at the mill, please visit her 2021 Profile Page.

Tim Wilmot

Tim Wilmot
2 – 9 October 2021 - five places 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.



Our unique Italian language course

We still have a few places left on our inspiring Italian Language Course, which runs from Saturday 16 October to Saturday 23 October 2021. 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.

2021 Language Course

Francesca la SalaFrancesca la Sala
16 - 23 October 2021 - one or two places 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