|Stradun - paved in white marble|
Monday, 22 November 2021
Dubrovnik, jewel of the Adriatic, once a prosperous trading hub, now a tourist's dream. Our half-term visit in October to this beautiful old city still glows in my memory. After 18 months of being confined to the UK, it was our first trip abroad post-Covid. Blinking sleepily, we stumbled through the sliding doors at the airport into a sunlit world with china-blue skies and breathtaking views of the glittering sea.
We felt like we'd been magically teleported back into a European summer. Wall-to-wall sunshine, with highs of 21 degrees. Woo-hoo! Back home, it was raining. With a rush of euphoria, I realised the endless form-filling and antigen tests were finally worth it. How lucky were we.
Tuesday, 8 June 2021
Sometimes you don't realise you need a break until you're sat on a beach in the sunshine, thinking thank goodness. This was me last week, staying in Cornwall with extended family. It was a celebration of my sister-in-law's birthday but also a much needed holiday.
After driving down through the madness of half-term traffic, we arrived in a different land. Here, the sun shone and the sea glistened. Every pore in my freckly pale skin peeled open to soak up the vitamin D. It was bliss. After months of rain and unseasonal chilliness back home, summer had finally arrived.
|Port Isaac, a former fishing village|
Wednesday, 9 December 2020
I'm in a retrospective mood. December is a month for sorting through our photos and thinking about the year that has passed. It's no surprise the events of 2020 will stand out in my memory. A few years ago it was a road-trip through California that dominated; this year our holidays were equally unusual but somewhat closer to home (literally).
Scrolling through our archive, the photos reveal a few other themes too: fun in the garden during lockdown-lite (summer), new crazes for paddle boarding and home-decorating, as well as an obsession with food (homegrown veg, homemade sourdough, celebratory cakes). Towards the latter end of the year, it was the new kitten who stole the show - romping with the dog, curled up in my son's hat, or perched nonchalantly on the roof of our house (three storeys up 😩).
|Holidays in the garden|
Wednesday, 11 November 2020
I'm feeling happy today. Naturally, I'm unable to be happy without taking time to analyse why. This is the ideal state we all aspire to, the holy grail of modern life and a prized commodity during these quiet lockdown days.
I read recently that believing we can achieve happiness is a misguided notion. Better to live a useful life, where happiness becomes a byproduct (if we're lucky). This was said by somebody famous, though I can't remember who (possibly a former American president or First Lady - I've overindulged on US politics recently).
|This makes me happy|
Wednesday, 23 September 2020
Hubby and I nipped out for a walk first thing yesterday morning. The mist hung over the green hills of Turville while the sunlight was so piercing I could barely keep my eyes open. It felt like the last breath of summer... a chance to wander through the fields, past hedgerows and along chalky banks with the sun's warmth on our skin. We even spotted a some ragged purple flowers - a flash of floral excitement late in the season.
Wednesday, 20 May 2020
The first time I ever sampled sourdough, I was at a business lunch with a contact in New York during the late 1990s. Mid-conversation, sitting in the chichi restaurant, I remember picking up my diamond-shaped bread roll and taking a nibble. My goodness, I thought to myself, that bread has gone off!
Perhaps I didn't hide my grimace well enough because my companion smiled and told me that 'sourdough' was a New York speciality. I felt a pang for the French-style bread I might have been given in a London restaurant back home...
|Sourdough: 'bread with an old soul'|
Picture credit: Will Lam
Wednesday, 6 May 2020
The depressing thing about getting older is that you'll never be young again. Yes, an obvious point (but bear with me). I look in the mirror every morning and I think, Rats - is that really me? What happened to my skin? Then I reach compulsively for my anti-ageing face cream...
The other day, I was flipping through old photos and observing how youthful I used to be. But then it struck me: it's likely, when those snaps were taken, I'd already started worrying about my wrinkles.
|My glory days in NYC - boating in Central Park |
Wednesday, 8 April 2020
We got our letter from Boris yesterday. Poor man - I'm sure he didn't imagine he'd end up in hospital himself when he was sitting there, chewing his pencil and wondering what to write. His words - we must slow the spread of the disease and reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment - are steeped in irony.
Instead, Dominic Raab is left in charge. Two nights ago on the BBC, he looked faintly queasy at the prospect. Incidentally, he was in the year below us at university so it feels rather odd that he's now our de facto PM - like our generation has come of age. Or a bit like my friend Sarah or Cathy running the country, except Sarah is too busy looking after the children of key workers and Cathy is reading the news.
|Tending to our new vegetable patch|
Tuesday, 24 March 2020
So it's Day One of social isolation. I feel like I can hear the Big Brother voiceover ringing in my ears, giving a running commentary of life in the 'house' so far. On the plus side, online school seems to be going well for the kids this morning, barring a few technical wrinkles. And the dog has enjoyed more walks than usual as we take turns to sample the sunny freedom in the fields behind our house.
My God, was it only a week ago that we had friends round for Sunday lunch? The last eight days have felt more like a month as we've watched our freedoms fall by the wayside, felled by an unremitting virus. It is incredible how the apparatus of our society - the education system, our economy, basic human rights - can be dismantled so quickly. And in the end, all it comes down to is life itself, the battle to preserve our little flickers of being.
|Coronavirus haircuts in the kitchen|
Tuesday, 17 March 2020
What strange times we live in. I walked into a petrol station yesterday to fill up my car and got terribly excited when I noticed multiple packs of loo roll in the aisle. A rare sight these days. In our household, a shortage had been looming after several visits to my local supermarket last week proved fruitless. I had to resist the urge to buy up more than my fair share.
Our days are weighted with an underlying sense of dread as we wait for the coronavirus to unleash its full force on our shores. Yesterday's restrictions on social contact - recommended by the prime minister and his advisors - will change our lives in immeasurable ways. For me, the consequences of these restrictions are only just sinking in. Can I still meet a friend for coffee? No, not really. Will book club get cancelled? Yes. And what about Pilates?
|Even the dog's worried about food shortages |
- he raided a food bin this morning
Monday, 2 March 2020
It turned out to be quite an eventful holiday. At the beginning of half term, as I finished zipping up the suitcases and disposing of the dregs in the fridge, a text popped up from Easyjet:
Gee, thanks, Storm Dennis. After a few hours of high stress (12-year old hid in his room), we finally managed to book ourselves onto another flight to Gran Canaria, our holiday destination, three days later - yes, three days later.
We are sorry to inform you that your Easyjet flight xxx has been cancelled. You can transfer onto a new flight or get a refund...
|Blue sky, sunshine, RELAX|
Tuesday, 11 February 2020
This one is about friendship. The long-lasting kind. I've just got back from a reunion weekend with my university besties and I'm still basking in the after-glow. We drank too much champagne/wine/gin, ate too much chocolate/cake/canapés and contended with Storm Ciara, but my goodness it was worth it!
So often we take our friendships for granted, particularly during the decades of parenthood and middle age. Even the early narratives of our lives are spun around meeting a romantic partner, or having a child... and yet in the background, friendships run deep like a rich seam.
|The journey's more fun with friends|
Picture credit: Harriet Bell
Tuesday, 3 September 2019
As I watched my son lope off to catch his school bus this morning, I shed a tear. It was a discreet tear alone in the car - a quiet acknowledgement that my boy is growing up and that the summer is over. No one saw; I didn't embarrass him.
On our way to the bus stop, we had overtaken a nervous first year, walking alongside his mum. A whole year has passed since my son set off for his first day at senior school, his face set and his shoulders hunched.
|One eye on the past and one on the future...|
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
|Gratuitous picture of dogs...|
"He's a cheerful chap," I remarked jovially. The sun was out and the birds were tweeting so I was feeling friendly, despite the early hour.
Tuesday, 14 May 2019
When the sun comes out at this time of year, I want to lie outside and soak up rays like a solar battery. This year, I got an early charge when we flew to Lanzarote for a week's stay over the Easter holidays.
We took a family suite at the hotel Princesa Yaiza in the Playa Blanca resort. The hotel was vast and we were tucked away in a distant wing (the family zone) but there was lots to keep us entertained. As well as three swimming pools and numerous restaurants in the hotel complex, there was the 'Kikoland' sports facility, where we got addicted to paddle tennis (a cross between tennis and squash). We could also walk to a pretty (if busy) beach nearby.
|One of Yaiza's many pools|
Tuesday, 18 December 2018
Christmas is an elaborate production. The sheer brilliance of it is that everyone collaborates in one way or another - whether that's buying presents, sending cards, or perpetuating the magic of Santa. The festival is one massive, co-ordinated effort across the nation and most of us opt in without even questioning it. The results are spectacular: from the gorgeous lights illuminating our town centres to crazy knitted jumpers, Secret Santa, fairs, parties and the decorated trees adorning our homes.
As each year passes, I get more practised at keeping my end up. I now have processes in place (start the cards early; book online shopping slots in November) to make life easier. I know what's expected and I deliver. It helps that it's the same show every year because - let's be honest - I'm not much of an innovator. I follow the time-honoured plan and streamline efficiencies where I can.
|My first ever Christmas wreath!|
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
Something struck me the other day. I could be halfway through my life (assuming there are no unforeseen accidents). Not so long ago, I celebrated my 45th birthday and judging by my grandmother's longevity, I could have nearly half a century left. I've reached a tipping point. All of a sudden, the next 45 years feel rather precious.
Usually, I wake up on my birthday and think, oh bugger, another year older! How did that happen? This time, I lay in bed feeling a little overcome. It's like I've reached the top of the hill and now I'm about to free-cycle down the other side.
|A bit of a milestone!|
Wednesday, 5 September 2018
|Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz|
Credit: William Lam
Tuesday, 3 July 2018
|Fan-tastic for staying cool on the sit!|
Tuesday, 19 June 2018
There is something about navigating through water in a small vessel that has come to symbolise our struggle as human beings. The concept of a voyage, with people pitched against the elements, has enjoyed mythical status throughout time, from the Aeneid and Moby Dick to J.K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. On Sunday my family went canoeing with our cousins, adding - I felt - our small contribution to the boating canon.
In a flotilla of three canoes - our inflatable and two hired Canadian canoes - we paddled down an idyllic stretch of the River Thames from Henley to Wargrave. We may have been unlikely literary heroes in our shorts and hoodies, but the way in which each crew tackled the challenge of reaching the George & Dragon pub in Wargrave spoke volumes about our attitudes to life.
|Paddling down Hennerton Backwater|
Credit: William Lam