Tag: shopping

Party in the backyard

Party in the backyard

We’re back in England at Tim and Ruth’s place, it’s 11am and there’s a party going on in the backyard.

Right now there are about 20 starlings, a couple of pigeons and two squirrels – in the bird bath, balanced on the feeders, fighting each other on the grass. One squirrel is hanging from the fat block by one leg, back legs stretched apart as far as they’ll go, guzzling fat as though he’s been deprived of food since last autumn.

We invited them all to the party yesterday by wandering around the yard adding seed to the various feeders, filling a container with peanuts, adding the fat block to its holder and then scattering further bits and pieces across the yard.

I’ve been watching them come and go all morning through the kitchen window. I’ve been cooking while watching the party – breakfast omelets, roasted swede soup, shortbread. We’re in no rush to go anywhere today; Don will eventually pop in to London to look at comic books and musical instruments, and I’m going to the Guy Fawkes bonfire night this evening, but otherwise we’re on a down day.

And it’s fabulous.

We’re on day 51 now, and on almost every day we’ve been away there have been things to see and do. We’ve walked for miles, eaten out for most meals, sat on planes, trains and buses, consulted maps, read guide books, taken photos, talked to locals, climbed towers, browsed galleries. It’s a great adventure and we’re loving every single second, but when you’re travelling for this long you really need some time to just sit on a couch and watch tv, read, do nothing.

We’re lucky because we’re staying with friends and can do just that. I honestly think I could sit in Tim and Ruth’s conservatory and watch the birds and squirrels all day. They’re different birds to those in Australia and we certainly don’t have squirrels, so I’m going to count it as sightseeing.

Although I don’t often spend the whole day sightseeing in my pyjamas.

The stuff of Italy

The stuff of Italy

Surely it’s impossible not to love Italy.

I remember the first time we came – our plan was to spend a few days, then head to Brindisi and catch the ferry to Greece. But Italy sucked us in; we bought one of those limited kilometres train tickets, carefully counted our lira and camped all over the place.

And now Italy has sucked us into its big, bold warmth again. Every city we’ve been in so far I’ve turned to the others and just grinned with the sheer happiness of being here, with my friends, in the sunshine, exploring, eating, relaxing, learning. I’ve had these moments in other places too, but Italy is special.

Because Italy is jam packed with stuff. Crammed into every corner, stuff. From the west to the east, down to the toe and through the islands, great stuff upon even better stuff. Old stuff, new stuff, delicious stuff. Painted stuff, historic stuff, ruined stuff. Pretty and designer stuff. Famous stuff to see, secret stuff to discover.

And in all of that stuff, I can’t think of a single thing that’s wrong. Sure, there are lots of tourists, and some things can be expensive, but whatever. It’s all a part of it. You want history? Italy’s got it. You want food? Every restaurant, cafe, gelateria is a winner. Art? More than covered. Shopping? Don’t get me started. Wine? Don’t make me laugh.

We’ve eaten pasta, pizza, pastries, gelato, cheeses, meats. We’ve seen paintings, frescoes and statues, visited churches, palaces, towers, ruins and monasteries. It’s never-ending – people-watching piazzas, rich, perfect coffee, beautiful wine, scenic landscapes. Quirky little shops, designer stores to look but not buy, markets to haggle in. Big cities, little towns, each with its own identity, its own showstoppers.

And now we are in Livorno, coastal town, with other close friends and even more to explore – canals, markets, food, day trips.

So much stuff.

For the third time in my life I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. A guarantee I’ll be doing the turn and grin again.

Up, down, shake it all around

Up, down, shake it all around


Indulge me for a moment while I focus on the selfie stick.

The selfie stick is one of those items that are at the same time dreadfully touristy and incredibly useful. The benefits are obvious – not all friendly tourists will take a nice pic of you – and yet we still hesitate to buy one, not wanting to join the throngs wandering about, sticks in the air, heads bobbing about.

Our friend Ruth has a selfie stick; she brought it with her on our trip to Italy.

Our friend Ruth is an intelligent, funny and capable woman, however mastering the selfie stick seems to be a skill that has totally bypassed her. And nothing – nothing – on this trip to Italy has made us laugh so hard, so loud, so tears streaming down our face shrieking, as Ruth taking our photo using the selfie stick.

We don’t get it out much because it takes a short discussion on appropriateness and importance of the proposed site followed by around 45 minutes of assembly. In fact until today we’d only used it three times: for a photo at the Roman forum with Ruth’s head chopped off, a photo at the Spanish Steps without the Spanish Steps in it and a photo of our black shapeless head silhouettes in front of some blurry backlit columns somewhere in Rome.

The thing is, I really don’t know how it always goes so wrong what with all of the instructions the rest of us provide for Ruth to follow. Particularly Tim. Because wives love it when their husbands shout a string of conflicting instructions at them. Take this morning when we went for our fourth attempt with the selfie stick on a cute little canal bridge in Venice. After the assembly process, Ruth lifted the stick, and it was on.

“Tilt it back!”

“Straighten it up!”

“Lift it higher!”

“Move your head!”

“You move your head!”




“The other sideways!”

“Wait, I need my sunglasses!”

“Don’s not in!”

“I said straighten it up!”

“Tim’s too tall!”

“I can’t hold this pose much longer!”

“Tilt it 80 degrees left!”

“Sure, let me get my protractor out!”

“Wait, I’ll take my hat off.”

“I can’t find the button!”

“It’s on the bottom!”

“It’s on the side!”





And so we have added to our collection a photo on a Venice bridge, three smiling faces and Don sliced perfectly down the middle.

Conversations in Venice

Conversations in Venice

“Where are we going?”

“I want to go back to that shop.”

“Is this the right way?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think we’ve been here before, I recognise that restaurant.”

“No, that’s not the same one.”

“Piazza San Marco – how did we end up out here?”

“Turn around, we’re going back in.”


“We turned left here, perhaps try turning right this time.”

“This is the third time we’ve been over this bridge.”

“No, that’s not the same one.”

“Is this our hotel?”

“Yes, but it’s in a different place now.”

“We’re back in San Marco.”

“Yes, I can see that. Let’s try this alley.”

“Ok, it has shops in it.”

“That’s a nice building.”

“We saw it ten minutes ago.”

“I think we’re close.”

“How about this shop?”

“No, that’s not the same one.”

“It has the same things in it.”

“Not quite.”

“We haven’t seen this bit before.”

“Yes we have, four times.”

“Here it is!”


“Here’s the restaurant where we had dinner last night.”

“No, that’s not the same one.”

“We’re back in San Marco again.”

“Yes, but now I know where we were going wrong.”

“You do?”

“Do you?”

“You’re never going to find….”

“Here it is, do you want to wait outside for me?”

Imagine my surprise

Imagine my surprise


Ambling is hard work. Although I suspect we’re not really very good at it yet. We have arisen every day so far on this ‘slow-paced’ holiday with a full day’s agenda, pausing only for food (which is hardly a pause). This week in Chicago we’ve been up buildings, inspected fountains, walked for miles in museums, criss-crossed parks, undertaken tours and indulged in cocktails.

So imagine my surprise when Don suggested we amble down Michigan Avenue – the Magnificent Mile – and look at the shops.

Yes, you read that correctly. The shops.

I agreed immediately and shoved him out the hotel door before he could change his mind. A world of retail awaited me.

There wasn’t much for me in Gap. I found myself loitering around the menswear section for ages while Don ducked in and out of the dressing room trying on clothes.

There wasn’t much for me in Nike. I found myself loitering around the menswear section for ages while Don inspected the hightops.

There wasn’t much for me in Zara. I found myself loitering around the menswear section for ages while Don ooh-ed and aah-ed over men’s accessories.

There wasn’t even much for me in Whole Foods. I found myself loitering with my lunch while Don inspected the snack aisles.

We were on Michigan Avenue for three and a half hours. Don bought himself two pairs of jeans, a nice blue scarf, a chocolate bar, a huge bottle of soda water and a hunk of cheese. I bought myself a coffee.

I’m ok with this, truly. My time will come.

Because when we hit our next city, I shall have a girlfriend!