When I was a little girl I used to love it when my dad took me to car boot sales. We’d spend hours perusing the various wares on sale, haggling over items until I felt satisfied I’d got a good deal. My favourite items were china cats, which I sought out with ferocious enthusiasm. I rarely left empty-handed, and over the years amassed a large collection of paraphernalia.

As the years wore on my china cat obsession abated, but I sated my continued passion for bric-a-brac by watching with interest programmes such as The Antiques Roadshow, Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic. The idea of finding something old lurking in the corner of an attic, dusting it off and finding out it’s actually worth a fortune is almost fairytale-like. Even if it’s not worth a lot of money, there’s something so appealing about restoring old antiques to their former glory.

This rationale may also explain my love of home improvement programmes. I’ve always liked the idea of buying a ramshackle old building somewhere in the country and lovingly renovating it into a gorgeous home. I suppose you could call me a bit of a romantic in that respect, but hopefully one day someone will indulge this girlish dream of mine and help to make it a reality…

…Borobadur in Indonesia was a rather impressive example.


Andiamo il Palio!

I remember the first time I went to the famous Palio horse race in Siena in Italy. I must have been about six years old, and was on holiday with my mum, my stepdad and my best friend and her family. Siena itself is a lovely place to behold, but when this race comes to town – as it does twice every year, once in July and once in August – it’s something else. Thousands of people line the streets, many waving flags in support of their horse –each of which represents a parish of Siena. The supporters walk through the city towards the central square (in reality more of a concave ‘shell’), filling it up to capacity before the race begins – which it does amidst much pomp and ceremony.

The race is over in seconds – it really is a blink and you’ll miss it affair – but whilst it’s a fantastic spectacle the thing that’s always captivated me has not been the race itself but the flurry of activity afterwards. For if you look up at the balconies – which pre-race are lined with mafia-types in suits and dark glasses – you’ll see them suddenly empty, as they go in search of the jockeys that have failed to bring their money in. Apparently some years the jockeys have been pulled off their horses and even killed (so the legend goes) after losing the race, which is why you’d be hard pressed to find any of the losers in the vicinity once the final whistle is blown.

It’s been a few years since my last trip to Siena, so I’m more than a little excited about attending this year’s first Palio on Tuesday. Dark glasses at the ready…

Don’t panic! It’s just a holiday

On the topic of holidays, as has been the theme of my last two posts, when I think back to childhood breaks en famille I can’t help but be reminded of Mum’s phobia about packing. I’ve always wound her up about it but it must be so distressing to feel that level of anxiety in the run up to a holiday. Instead of feeling that delicious sense of anticipation about their time away, people like my mum with packing phobias actually experience dread, because the planning that’s required induces panic that can lead to both physical and mental paralysis.

Mum’s a list-maker like me, and you’d think that would help to keep things ordered and under control, but in reality (as I myself have experienced on the odd occasion, like when I’m overloaded at work and find myself surrounded by so many lists my brain ends up in a state of panic-induced inertia) that doesn’t always help. Lists can go so far to quell the panic of forgetting something, but what if you forget to put something on the list in the first place?

I don’t claim to understand this phobia, but I do sympathise with those who have it. I’m also very grateful I don’t have this particular affliction, because I’ve enough neuroses to cope with as it is…

Viva Italia!

Thinking back to family holidays as a child evokes many happy memories. Having a half-Italian stepfather meant numerous trips to Italy, where we would visit art galleries then sit eating gelato in the sunshine and watching the world go by.

It must be getting on for ten years since I last visited Italy a la famiglia, which is why I’m extremely excited to be doing exactly that on Monday for six glorious days. Not only will it be a welcome holiday post-Glastonbury (we’ve wisely taken the decision to leave the festival a day early in order to get clean and get some rest), it will also be a great opportunity to spend time with my mum and stepdad.

The older I get the more I realise the importance of appreciating my parents. I’m ashamed to say I still turn into a grumpy teenager on occasion when I’m in in their presence, but I am gradually learning to put the adolescent in her place and enjoy interacting with them as an adult.

Roll on the art galleries and gelato – they’ve been a long time coming…

Festival fever

It’s 6.09pm as I type this and I’ve officially finished work. All that stands between me and Glastonbury 2013 is an evening of last minute packing, a few brief hours’ rest and a three and a half hour coach ride to the site in Pilton, Somerset.

My first experience of the festival in 2005 was somewhat traumatic. A festival (and indeed camping) virgin I’d arrived fresh-faced with my pink two-man tent and solar-powered shower, completely oblivious to the reality of what I was about to endure. Which was, in short, four days of torrential rain (and by torrential I mean on the first night it rained so hard peoples’ tents were washed away and police divers were called in to retrieve their passports and valuables).

When I returned in 2008 the weather gods were marginally kinder. As I recall it only rained for half of the festival, but when you’re trying to negotiate a site that big even the smallest amount of rain can play havoc with your enjoyment of the general experience.

Although this year the forecast predicts some light rain showers, it’s looking like we may avoid a total wash out (she says, crossing fingers, toes and everything in between). But nonetheless I shall be packing my wellies and my mac – I know too well the British forecast should never be trusted…Wish me luck!


So, it turns out the satisfaction I felt after six hours spent cleaning out my bedroom on Saturday afternoon came at a price: Namely, acute back pain.

With hindsight lugging heavy bags of rubbish around with scant concern for my posture was foolish, but it’s too late to turn back the clock now. What started as a niggle is now a full blown injury (I won’t deny being a hypochondriac, but this time I’m not lying when I say I’m in agony) but with grit, determination and a LOT of painkillers I HAVE to get through it-because believe you me, there’s no way in God’s green earth I’ll be missing Glastonbury.

Once I’m at the festival I’m sure I’ll be fine-I can self-medicate with cider and sloe gin-it’s just the getting there that’s the problem. More specifically, it’s trekking across numerous fields carrying a rucksack bursting at the seams with mattresses, pumps, tents, tinned food and various other paraphernalia that’s the problem.

Still, I suppose as a seasoned festival-goer I should embrace the challenge, slap a heat patch on my back and give it my best shot-I may fall before I even reach the front gate, but at least I’ll fall knowing I tried, and with a can of gin and tonic in my hand…




Thus far today’s been one of those rare and gorgeous days where everything runs exactly to plan. I was up at 8am, at my desk by 9am and by 10.30am had submitted two magazine pitches and was donning my running shoes for a quick jaunt to Argos in Victoria, where I collected a camping stool for my forthcoming trip to Glastonbury Festival. By the time I arrived back home (by tube, since the camping stool didn’t lend itself all that well to being a running aid) I’d even had a reply from one of the editors (the good news is they want the article, the bad news is they’ve no budget – but never mind, it all adds to the online portfolio).

It’s now 2.30pm and I’ve just finished writing this month’s guest post for Bea Magazine (which will be online on the 30th) and drafted ideas for my blog posts over the next week (WordPress assures me I will not fail in my task of posting something every day of 2013, thanks to its clever functionality to schedule blog posts – shhh). Before I start writing them, however, I need to pop out to do a spot of pre-festival shopping – it’s time to stock up on cereal bars, meal replacement shakes and enough wet wipes to keep the dirtiest of festival-goers clean from head to toe…Quite a tall order…Happy Monday everyone!

My friends will kill me for posting this but I love it – this pic pretty much sums up how much I love Glastonbury and how excited I am to be going there in three days!