Friday, 8 August 2014


It's been a long week but I made it to the end and the book festival starts tomorrow. Until then a little something for a Friday...

Thursday, 12 June 2014


We left Syros on the Aqua Sprit, a small ferry as these things go, walking down from our hotel to the boat, stopping off at a bakery for supplies - water, a few different varieties of cheese pie, just the usual - standing on the deck to watch as cars, bikes, tractors, came aboard, as a small group of people joined us, the locals staying below, in the cool. We took a spot on one of the blue plastic benches, listening to three men as they discussed the difference between holidaying and travelling, assuring each other that this was travelling, as we pulled away from Syros, rocking slightly, a motion that would take us through 7 hours, through stops on Paros, Naxos, Ios, and Sikinos, to Folegandros. 

As we arrived on Naxos, as a few more people joined those who had come onboard on Paros, and as we stood watching the routine of ropes being thrown, the unloading and reloading of vehicles and passengers, we sat alongside a Blue Star ferry. It was almost the same as the one we had taken to Syros, a monster compared to the one we were on now, and, as we saw the number of people, the speed as that ferry left the bay, as we compared it to our leisurely pace, to our stops announced first in Greek, then English, 'parakelo, parakelo..', we realised how glad we were to be travelling on our boat, with the blue plastic benches, the tomato plants being grown on deck.

We spent those hours watching. Watching the sea, the sky, the waves as they hit the front of the boat, the rainbows in the spray, the other people travelling alongside us - an elderly couple, him looking at the same Greek phrasebook as we had in our bag, her doing crosswords; a foursome of leathery skinned Brits, the men sitting with their tops off, clearly used to Greek ferries, to Greek sun; a large group from Texas, parents, teenage daughters, a son who we spoke to as his wife slept and who we then would bump into over the next few days, comparing notes about where we had been, what we had done.

We reached Folegandros just as the boat started to lurch a little more, as the waves started to get higher, as the wind picked up, and as the spray from one of the waves managed to reach the deck. We decided to head inside as the announcement started, 'parakelo, parakelo...', going downstairs, collecting our bags from the store where they nestled against boxes of fruit and vegetables being delivered to the island, the door starting to open as the boat slowly pulled into the dock, someone in a uniform beckoning us forward to leave the boat before it had quite touched land, people running on to collect their deliveries.

We had sea legs for the rest of the day.  

Friday, 6 June 2014


I've still got three posts to write about Greece (and it might be more considering how much I'm struggling to cut down the file of photos). But, in thinking about Greece I find that I can't write any more without writing about my Aunt who loved it there and whose funeral we went to yesterday in Chester.

I wonder whether it is hard to get someone so right on the day that is there for saying goodbye. Or, whether it says something about who she was that it was so right, that it came through at the church, the crematorium, in the pub afterwards as we stood in the sun: her love for her family that came above everything; her smile, that was in the photograph on the altar but, more than that, is in our heads in all our memories of her; her warmth; her strength; her love for Greece, for the holidays taken there year after year, for the planning that started as soon as the last holiday had ended, her joy in the planning almost as much as in the holidaying. My cousin, Mark, chose the music for the crematorium and as the curtain closed, and as Zorba the Greek started playing, smiles appearing around the room, breaking through the tears, there could have been no better choice. 

Uncle Simon said a few words before reading a poem at the mass. He said that Aunty Di, of the nine of them, of which my Mum is the fourth, of which Aunty Di was the sixth, five brothers, four sisters, that she was was the best of them. And when I think of her, think of that smile, think of the love that she had for everyone in this extensive family, the love that shone out of her every time I saw her, all I can think is that she was the best of us all.

Aunty Di, we love you, we'll miss you, this one's for you.

Friday, 30 May 2014


Summer has been coming and going over the last few weeks, a day of sunshine, seats outside, sandals, then back to rain, jackets, feet dyed blue from navy moccasins worn without socks. But now the days are so long, the evenings so light, and the countdown to a few days in the sun in June has begun. But, before then, and because my parents recently followed (roughly) in our footsteps, some long overdue posts from last June... 

We got to Athens in a roundabout way. A flight to Frankfurt and a night in a hotel with German beers bought from the airport supermarket. When we arrived we waited for the bus to the port, cramming ourselves on, resigning ourselves to a long trip spent standing up all the way. At Piraeus we found the ferry, set out to buy food for the journey, and I acquainted myself with the perilous mix that is saltwater sandals and marble pavements meaning that for that first week my bikini would be accessorised with a giant bruise on my hip. Onwards - cheese pies, beers, a seat in the sun on the deck of the ferry as it filled up - families from our flight, Greek people heading to islands. The first stop in 3.5 hours would be ours, Syros, the last in the early hours of the morning. We were giddy for most of those hours, the sun, the blue, the islands that we passed with solitary white churches on outcrops of rock.

Those two nights on Syros were marked with a small hotel, the view from the balcony - a blue-domed church in one direction, the port in the other, walks on marble pavements and through marble squares (treading carefully, my lesson learned), swimming from rocks where children launched themselves into the sea while older men and women sat under trees watching on, Greek music playing, an elderly man teaching the littlest ones how to click their fingers in time. We swam there twice, once luxuriating in our first swim of the holiday, retreating eventually to sit outside under bougainvillea for lunch, the second time as the sun dropped, the water colder, the light astonishing. We swam every day after that until we got back to Athens. 

Friday, 23 May 2014


It's been a good week here; part-sun, part-rain, hanging out with this guy, eating good food, drinking good drinks.

I'm starting these Friday links with the one I really want you all to follow (most of you are probably already there). Delancey is as good, as great, as everyone (here, here, here - I could go on) has been saying. It's the story of how hard it can be to create something good, a reminder that things that on the surface can seem so natural, so easy, may have actually involved pushing yourself in ways you couldn't have imagined. It's easy to tell the surface story and I can only applaud Molly, from much too far away, for being willing and able to share this more difficult version. Her words have always drawn me in and and, even though I knew what would happen, have happily visited Delancey, wish I could go and eat there, meet up with friends there, on more weekends than seems sensible given those thousands of miles that stand in my way, they drew me in here too, I sat on the train back from London early last week and I lost myself in the story.

Sticking with the good reads...

Let’s understand things before we embrace or degrade them

And, because it's Friday:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


We moved to the new house when I was 7. It was early in January and there was snow on the ground, a rare enough event in Sussex to make me remember it still. It was a new development and ours was one of the first houses that had been completed. We played in the street that was still part building site, I befriended an elderly couple who lived in the flats at the end of the road and whose name, sadly, now escapes me, and gradually the houses filled up.

I don't remember when Clive moved in next door but I can remember when he first popped his head over the garden fence and invited himself round for a cup of tea, I can remember when Mum told him that she wasn't making tea but that he could have a gin and tonic instead.

I can't really remember Clive not being part of our lives after that.

There are photos from that Summer dotted around the house, us at the lake where Clive went water-skiing, Mum sitting tanned in her bikini, Zoe doing handstands, me pulling faces at the camera. He invited us round for dinner which turned out to be liver casserole... Mum politely ate what she had been given, Zoe just the carrots, I cried and asked if I could go home and make a jam sandwich. He didn't cook for us again, I'm surprised we didn't completely scare him off.

25 years ago today it was sunny in Midhurst and it was the day of the FA Cup Final, Liverpool vs. Everton. It was the day that Zoe and I put on our dresses from Laura Ashley and went to church for Mum and Clive to get married. It was the day that friends and family celebrated with an afternoon party in the garden (or an afternoon minus 90 minutes when almost all the men headed inside to watch the football, a must watch match for our Liverpool supporting family). It was a great day, a very happy day.

And then we, all four of us, went to Greece for their honeymoon.

I'm pretty sure that Clive would never have imagined finding a wife and two daughters, and eventually a son and grandchildren, in the house next door to his, we certainly would never have imagined finding a Clive over the garden fence. All I can think now, over 25 years on, is weren't we all lucky. Happy Anniversary Mum, Happy Anniversary Clive xx  

Friday, 4 April 2014


 'In meteorology, haar is a coastal fog. Haar is typically formed over the sea and is brought to land by wind advection. The term haar is used along certain lands bordering the North Sea, primarily eastern Scotland and the North East of England.'

The haar settled over Edinburgh this week. A cold, damp, mist. It's a word that draws blank looks if you mention it further south so it was a surprise to hear it on the main BBC weather forecast this morning,  'the haar will persit, another cold day.'

It can arrive in the Summer, a bright day, the city bathed in sunshine, but you look towards the Forth and see it creeping in, like the fog in a low budget horror film. Tourists look confused, locals reach into their bags for layers that are never far away, change their plans from going for ice-cream to going to the pub.

This week though there has been no sunshine, just a relentless grey sky and a permanent drizzle. It's supposed to lift. Later today? Tomorrow? Sooner would be better but until then I'm wearing my new favourite pink jumper, carrying my new favourite tote, and painting my nails a Spring shade to challenge the skies...