1. You know how I keep complaining that a holiday with small children isn't actually a holiday at all? Apparently I've finally emerged from that phase of my life. At least under certain circumstances, viz, when the kids have company and a vast amount of space to play in. I was blissfully not needed for whole stretches of time last week. It was wonderful. I didn't do much actual knitting – I kept finding myself just sitting, holding my needles, basking in the sun or taking in the views as we drove around. Given all the pressures this year has held so far, I feel absolutely no guilt about taking a proper break. I did refine my ideas for some upcoming designs, and I'm properly excited about them. But we'll talk about those later.
2. Also wonderful: the house we stayed in. The listing doesn't give any sense of how huge and gorgeous the grounds are – I didn't get around to exploring them myself, which is appalling, but the kids kept running off into "the forest". It was the library that charmed me most, though. Not that I could read any of the books (mostly Italian, some French; a very small handful in English or German, plus dictionaries for a few more languages, including Arabic), nor would I quite dare, but the range of interests covered was tantalising, including I Ching, folklore and the history of Islam. Her collection of antique books certainly puts mine to shame. (I used to have a couple of poetry volumes from 1820. Some of hers were about 50 years older than that.) I want to be this woman, or failing that, at least to be her friend. Sadly, my sister having arranged the whole thing, I didn't even meet her.
3. Exceptionally wonderful: I popped over to Venice to have lunch with RACHAEL! Fresh from her amazing writing retreat. Rachael is a special online friend, but we've never met in person before. Not that you could tell. It felt like we'd been hanging out forever. She showed me her flat (looking out right over the Grand Canal!) and her favourite spots and we nattered and walked and nattered and nattered. It was glorious and I can't wait to see her again. (Luzern, Rachael! You'll see!)
4. Someone commented on Instagram that I have "ants in my pants", based on all the travel pics in recent months. Which: yes. It would look like that, wouldn't it? A healthy reminder of how misleading social media can be, albeit unintentionally. Since the start of March I've been to Edinburgh (a work-ish trip – yes, claiming a yarn festival visit as work-related is both completely valid and envy-inducing in itself, isn't it?), to Cape Town for a funeral, and now to Italy for a family holiday; in a few weeks I'll make a flying visit to Dublin. This is way more travel than I've done in years, and in less time. (Last year I flew to London twice (to support a grieving friend), went skiing twice (here in Switzerland, and one of those trips was my long-planned 40th birthday celebration) and took a family holiday in Germany, instigated and partly paid for by my mother-in-law. That was probably my busiest travel year ever, till this one.) True, I have been moving around, but I don't think it's quite what you'd imagine from all those airport and travel snaps. Even someone as unpolished and committed to "authenticity" as I am can create a highly glamorised impression of my life. Don't believe what you see on screen.
5. As ever, coming back home was about as much of a treat as going away. Because home is comforting (especially for kids), and because this particular home – our surroundings, rather than our actual flat – is so beautiful. I am aware of how unforgivably smug I must sound. But I'm not likely to stop sharing these pictures, or talking about how much I love our village. I won't stop, because I don't ever want to start taking it for granted. And I seem to be one of those people who experiences things by talking about them. Pictures or it isn't real! So here you go.
* Authenticity note: it is a proper farming village – albeit only 100 years old, which is very new by European standards – and it really is bordered by farmland and forest and nature reserve… on two sides. On the other two, encroaching town and suburb, including light industria. It's not what you're picturing every time I mention my Swiss village. But I love it.