and thank you for all your kind words, emails and good fun in the last year.
Hope you've enjoyed a good week and that the weather has been kind to you .
I had a light lunch at The Four seasons on Christmas day and a walk in the sunshine in the gardens,
visited and received friends during the week and had a coffee with a friend in San Niccolo this morning which included a political discussion and an excellent cappuchino.
|Christmas day breakfast at home and then a walk|
|in the sunshine up to The Four Seasons hotel Florence|
|a stroll around the gardens before a light 6 course lunch including|
|Lobster and Sea Bream|
|Mont Blanc and macarons!!|
|and then a walk beack home to watch the Queens Speech on the television !|
|Monument to Galileo|
|I was fortunate to have sunshine but if you wanted snow...........|
Emperor penguins frolic on Snow Hill in AntarcticaGavin Allen
It's good to know that at least someone has had a White Christmas.
However, if you wanted to enjoy the snow with these Emperor penguins you would have to travel 400 miles from civilisation.
Photographed in the freezing South Atlantic waters around the remote South Georgia Island, four days east by boat from the Falklands, the Emperor penguins have such little contact with humans that they come close enough to peck the camera.
Inquisitive: An Emperor Penguin chick standing on snow gives the camera an icy glare in this heartwarming image during an expedition to Snow Hill Island in the South Atlantic
Morning constitutional: Penguins take a group stroll along the ice on a sunny arctic morning
Isolated: The cycle of parenthood among the colony sees females lay a single egg before leaving it behind to undertake a two month hunting expeditionAnchored in a small, protected bay near to a massive rookery on the island, photographer Paul Souders spent two hours diving into the water with the Emperor penguins as the Southern summer turned to winter.
Braving the 1.5 degree celsius water to the point where his hands took one hour to get the feeling back, Mr Souders was stunned by the ease with which the penguins accepted him.
F-f-f-f-freezing: Temperatures fall as low as -60C on the island which is a cold and icy wasteland
Posing for the camera: Braving the 1.5C water to the point where his hands took one hour to get the feeling back, Mr Souders was stunned by the ease with which the penguins accepted him
Frozen: This remote island is home to the largest of the penguin species, the Emperor Penguin
Remote: The penguins are so unused to human interaction that they even looked at their own reflections in photographer Paul Souders' camera lens
Looking up to his parents: Two Emperor penguins shelter a young chick in the freezing winds
Wait a minute, you've already hatched! This chick huddles on his father's feet, where the eggs are kept warm
Whee! Penguins slide across the frozen sea ice as they travel up to 50 miles to reach the open ocean
White Christmas: This Emperor penguin with its young chick stands on frozen sea ice in Antarctica
'I'd never been in anything like it so it came as a bit of a shock. My face went numb and my hands grew painfully cold.
'But it was utter magic. I'd only ever seen penguins on land and to be honest, they look like idiots there - graceless and clumsy and hilarious.
'But to see them in the water was to see them in their element. They are incredibly graceful, strong swimmers. It's like watching them fly.'
The journey to arrive at the spot saw Mr Souders travel for two days, flying from Seattle to Los Angeles to Santiago in Chile and then on to Stanley in the Falklands. Next he hired a yacht which took four days to reach the remote British territory.
'We'd anchored in a small protected bay outside a massive penguin rookery on South Georgia Island,' said Mr Souders.
'It was late in the summer there, and many of the penguins were fat and happy, their chicks mostly grown.
'So they were curious about the boat anchored there, and even more so when I plopped into the water.
'They swam right up to the camera dome and pecked at their reflections.'
Mr Souders felt privileged to be in the same environment as the swimming birds.
'Some were quite curious about me, circling around me as I floated in the sea and coming over to check out their reflection in the glass underwater camera dome,' he said.
'They were all individuals from the nearby rookery, stopping off to check out the new neighbours.
'I can only stress what a privilege it is to do this work, to see wild animals undisturbed in their natural environments.
'I think it's critical for photographers to accept our responsibility not to not disturb the animals we encounter, and to encourage everyone to respect and protect the natural world.'
March of the penguins: Souders says the penguins look 'clumsy and hilarious' on dry land but are graceful in the water - and they spend a lot of time on the ice as they get to grips with the responsibilities of parenting
Queuing up: King penguin chicks stand on frozen sea ice in Snow Hill Island in the South Atlantic, where temperatures drop to as low as -60C
"Give me a cuddle Merlin xxxx "
On my walk along the Lungarno this morning the Arno was still like glass and the Heron , Cormorants and Gulls were in abundance . It was crisp and sunny and extremely pleasant