Thursday 22 July 2010

Summer days

I’ll be spending time with my grandchildren this summer, as usual, and we’ll be doing lots of traditional easy-going summery things … picnics in the countryside, paddling and crabbing at the seaside… The perfect companion for our excursions is What To Look For In Summer. It’s one of my own childhood favourites, a Ladybird book with delightful illustrations by CF Tunnicliffe and it’s beautifully written: “The rose is in full blossom and so, too, are the heavy branches of elder. The swallows are skimming the air and hawking the flies and meadow-brown butterflies are playing by the stone wall.” Just rereading it now takes me straight to summer fields and meadows.

My next companion is another perfect holiday read of a different kind: Love and War in the Apennines. It’s a tense thrilling story of escape, danger and romance; and it’s real. It’s the great travel writer Eric Newby’s homage to the courage and generosity of the Italian people who helped him – at great personal danger – when he escaped from the Nazis in the aftermath of the Italian surrender. There are some marvellous descriptions of life in remote villages and farms – there’s the shepherd who’s completely self-sufficient on the mountainside, the farm girls who are addicted to horoscopes and the elderly storyteller whose repertoire stretches back for centuries. And there’s a happy ending after some of the most stressful pages I’ve read in a long time. Very highly recommended.

My final choice is infinitely flexible. It’s up to you what you make of it. It’s my Moleskine notebook, in which I shall scribble notes of things that catch my attention and perhaps a sketch or two. There might be a dried flower, a ticket, memorable little scraps to remind me of happy summer days. There’ll be notes on places, people, the countryside – and food, of course. What’s great about keeping a little notebook to hand is that you capture the moment and store it up in a way that works just for you.

Happy holidays!

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