There’s a definite scent of autumn in the air and a crispness to these past few mornings that leaves me in no doubt. It’s the end of summer.
I love the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ that is always so beautiful in this part of the world. But it always makes me feel a little melancholy too. I’m a summer person at heart. I thrive on sunshine. And autumn always reminds me that another summer – and another year – is over.
Since having a child, this bitter sweetness seems even sharper. The marking of the years, the feeling of things slipping irrevocably away from me, the sense that there will never be another summer when my little girl is full of a two-year-old’s wonder at the world, is something that Lindsey has always written about so movingly on her beautiful blog here. Now I know exactly what she means.
But September is always full of a sense of possibility too. It’s a new school year and that means a new term beginning at Teesside, where I’ve now taught for nine months. We’ll be welcoming lots of new students this week and beginning new Creative Writing classes.
I’m also about to launch The Glass, the third book in the Everyday Magic Trilogy that began with the crazy ride that was The Dress. You can pre-order The Glass here. Again, I have a deep sense of sadness at saying goodbye to beloved characters but I’m also very excited to be moving on to new projects. I have a notebook bursting with ideas – and four new chapters of my next novel.
So goodbye summer of ice cream and sandcastles, summer when Violetta splashed in fountains and wore ‘lellow’ sandals and upside-down sunglasses. Hello autumn. I wonder what you have in store for me?
It really was, for a brief few days…
We went to sunny Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a short drive from where we live in North Yorkshire. It’s a wonderful place, perhaps my all-time favourite place to go for that English seaside experience. And it has a funicular, a special kind of water balanced cliff lift that transports visitors up the 71% incline from the beach to the cliff top. You can read more about its history here.
I love the cliff lift. I love the painted cream and red cabins with their polished wooden seats. Here’s Violetta checking out the brakeman’s hut at the top.
And here’s the sun setting last weekend. We’re already past the mid-point of the year and I find myself savouring these moments, wanting to hang on to them, remember them.
I have a little secret project brewing for next month so please do look out for details here on the blog if, like me, you want to practise noticing this ‘everyday magic,’ being in the now with it as much as possible, seeing it, tasting it, perhaps even recording it, sucking more of the juice out of it. Remembering…
I’m very excited about this bit of news…
The Dress has been translated into Italian and will launch in hardback and Kindle edition in Italy tomorrow. You can pre-order it right now here. I think my Italian publishers have done a wonderful job with the title and beautiful cover, don’t you? (Always interesting to see how a title translates to different countries and readerships.)
The Italian launch is particularly special for me because Italy is a place that is very close to my heart. I lived and studied there for two years in a little place called Duino, at an amazing college where I met people from around the world who are still among my closest friends today. I fell in love with Italy as a sixteen-year-old and the magic has never faded for me. Of course, this is why I enjoyed giving The Dress a flavour of Italy with the story of Fabia and Enzo. (I also got to completely indulge my passion for Italy in another of my novels, 37 Photographs.)
So I’m over the moon that the Italian translation will be published tomorrow. And in another Fabia-esque piece of serendipity, I’m just finishing work on the third book in the Everyday Magic Trilogy, The Glass, which just so happens to be set in Venice. I’m immersed in details of glass-making and reliving memories of winding cobbled streets, glittering canals, delicious gelato and cool, shady cafes. Ah, to be there right now…
Finally, what fun to be featured in the very glamorous TUStyle magazine this week, with a lovely interview by Carlotta Vissani. Here’s the article on my iPad this morning. My friend and utterly brilliant photographer Jim Poyner took the photo of me – and I think he actually managed to make me look as if I’d not been awake with a toddler for half of the previous night. Thanks, Jim.
‘Their magic must be very powerful or she wouldn’t want them so badly.’
– The Wizard of Oz, Original motion picture screenplay. (1939)
Sometimes I sit at my kitchen table, laptop open, mind flicking from one thing to another, one open document to another and I ask myself that very question.
Why not just give up and go and do something else – tarot reading, bareback horse riding, busking on a street corner, running for Parliament? Anything at all rather than sitting here worrying over the next few sentences whilst secretly suspecting that every word I write is terrible and that very soon I’ll have to stop and pick my daughter up from play group.
And of course then there’ll be no more time to write at all. Not today or possibly this week. And I’ll wish I’d used this time much more productively, slayed my demons, got something done. Stopped wasting time. Been more focused. Tried harder.
And then I let go for a few sweet sentences, forget to listen to my own circling thoughts, lose myself in words.
I look up and everything is somehow different.
And I remember that this is why I write. Because ultimately, the page is my safe space, the place where I forget who I am for a while, unencumbered by expectations and worries, shoulds and oughts.
Yes, it’s also the place where I challenge myself, limber up like an athlete in training, wonder if I’m good enough.
But for brief moments, when I stop holding my breath, it’s where I let go, slip into another space entirely, fly.
I’m so enjoying this last phase of finishing the Everyday Magic trilogy. The Glass is almost there – just one final push and it will be ready for editing and proofing. I’ve had to take more time away from this book than I would have liked and each time I’ve returned to the world of Fabbia and Ella, I’ve enjoyed it so much. The books really have become like a parallel universe for me – a place to which I can escape – and I hope it’s the same for anyone who reads them.
Here’s a photo of York’s beautiful Museum Gardens taken just last week. I love imagining Fabbia, Ella and Grace walking and playing here. It really is a place filled with ‘everyday magic.’
As those of you who have read my novel The Dress will know, one of the main characters (who seems to be everyone’s favourite) is Fabbia Moreno, seamstress and purveyor of ‘everyday magic’ from her vintage dress shop in York.
Fabbia loves everything vintage but is particularly partial to her little scarlet 40’s suit with the peplum jacket, which she pairs with leopard print heels – and she always wears red lipstick and black eyeliner.
I too love the vintage look of clean black eyeliner (with or without a flick at the corner) and a glamorous red lip – but is it really achievable in five minutes flat, which is about all the time I usually have for make-up on my average morning?
I actually think it is. With a little practice and a few carefully selected products. Here’s how I like to do it…
Red lipstick: I love Chanel’s red lipstick in Vendome, a MAC lipstick called Ladybug (which I bought years ago at Vancouver airport – I am eeking out my last little stub), a Laura Mercier sheer lipstick, somewhat embarrassingly called Sexy Lips and a lipgloss by Bobbi Brown called Hollywood Red, which has just the right amount of colour and is easy and quick to apply.
Eyeliner: I like Bobbi Brown’s completely smudge-proof gel eyeliner pots – the eyeliner brush is crucial – but as I so often have a toddler wrapped around my ankles in the mornings, I usually use an eyeliner pen such as this Collection 2000 Felt Tip, which is incredibly cheap and intensely black. It lasts for months too.
I usually brush over a dusting of nude or shimmery silver shadow before applying the eyeliner. I find that it gives a better base to work on very quickly.
And if you really want to perfect the art of the feline flick, perhaps on those days when you have ten minutes instead of two, Charlotte Tilbury’s tutorial here is brilliant.
Since Violetta was born, my kitchen escapades have been a little less adventurous. Most days, I make ragu for pasta, throw fish fingers, jacket potatoes or a chicken in the oven, bake chocolate cakes and assemble salads and sandwiches. But sometimes I still love just leafing through cookery books for inspiration. Tom and I often adapt things, depending on what we have in. And I love reading books by people who love writing about food. Here are a few of my favourites:
1. Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier
Fresh seasonal recipes mixed with food reminiscences. Clotilde has a mouth-watering blog and web site too. Her chocolate and zucchini cake is scrumptious.
2. How to Bake by Paul Hollywood
Every recipe I’ve tried from this book has worked so far. The sourdough especially is so easy – perfect to make with a toddler.
3. Kitchen by Nigella Lawson
What can I say? Since her How To Eat, I’ve been a huge Nigella fan, mainly because she writes so beautifully about food and clearly loves eating as much as I do. This is a big, fat book full of inspiration.
4. Venezia: Food and Dreams by Tessa Kiros
Gorgeous photography and styling, delicious recipes and currently my inspiration for many of the foody bits in The Glass.
5. Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
I fell in love with this book whilst searching for healthier ways of baking when my stepdaughters were younger. They loved some of the cakes in this book – and it’s very handy to have tiny hands to help you grate the courgette, butternut squash and sweet potato that are some of the essential ingredients in the recipes. These natural cakes really work – and they taste wonderful.
6. Hugh’s Three Good Things by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Exactly what it says on the cover. I love simplicity – in food and, come to think of it, in all things. Take three ingredients. Make them mouthwatering. Brilliant book for busy people.
7. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit
Not a recipe book per se but bursting with inspiration. Have some chicken in your fridge and a jar of lentils in your cupboard? Look them up and get some new ideas for flavour combinations.
By the way cookery books are the only books I tend not to buy on Kindle these days. I find it so much easier to leaf through them, enjoy the pictures and ruminate over the recipes in print format. Some cookery books just seem made for sitting on your shelf, slowly acquiring smudges of chocolate and floury thumbprints.
What are some of your cookery favourites? I’d love to hear.