Tag Archives: holidays

The Italian Paintings

I’ve unpacked the suitcase, done the laundry and distributed the gifts. I’ve settled back into work reacquainting myself with the myriad small disasters of the working day. I’ve rearranged the studio and tidied up a bit. So now there’s so more excuses for putting off starting on the post holiday paintings.

It might surprise you to know that as much as I love painting there’s something a bit daunting about sorting through my memories, masses of photos and all those small sketches I did and trying to distill the essence of the holiday that I now want to capture in larger pastel paintings.

Sometimes I absolutely know what I’m interested in. One holiday it was patterns- roof tiles, fields of different crops, rows of lavender, five metal jugs on a wall, bicycle wheels- stone fences-the list went on. Other times it takes a while for a them to emerge and this last Italian holiday was one of those.

When that happens sometimes I just decide to jump in and start painting whatever and see what develops. So here are my first three paintings and I think what might be developing is a visual essay on the varied landscapes of Italy.

When you live as far “down under” as we do, in southern Tasmania, it’s a long way to Europe and our usual approach is to whittle away at our wish list across 2 or 3 countries each trip. This holiday we spent 5 weeks in Italy instead of our usual 1-2 weeks and it really made a difference. We were able to stay a week each in four very different  regions and explore a bit more in depth than we usually have time for and I think the vastly different landscapes, architecture and traditional work is what captured our interest. Of course this variety shouldn’t be a surprise given that the Italy we know today is a very recent entity .

A gentle morning landscape with mist rising over the Tuscan wheatfields, the emerald waters of Sardinia and snowcapped mountains reflected in Lake Arpy in the northern Italian alps – the start of a series celebrating the diverse landscapes of Italy.

Tuscan wheatfields
Morning wheatfields. Tuscany


Capo di Cavello. Sardinia
Capo di Cavello. Sardinia


Lake Arpy. Italy
Lake Arpy reflections. Italy

A working theory on holiday disasters.

For quite some time The Writer and I have been testing the theory that a little bit of disaster punctuating a holiday just makes the good bits better. You might have read about the border incident which showcased a classic example where stress and imminent starvation resulted in a bog standard schnitzel consumed an hour later tasting like something a team of Michelin starred chefs had dreamed up for the culmination of the final dinner at a gourmet retreat.

You might be surprised to learn  we’ve amassed a fairly hefty set of data to support our working theory over the years. Indeed, The Writer has already published some early data based on a single holiday with five subjects participating in the field experiment-me ,The Writer, MIL and the two offspring.He has a perky little writing style and many a reader has commented along the lines of : “I bust a gut laughing at the antics of the Whitton family on holiday”. If you think you might enjoy a bust gut you can join the gang down at the hospital after reading Bon Voyage.

Sometimes the geek in me wins out so I decided to create an equation to express the working theory and here it is:

(Within the confines of H) D  followed by  NPE = HSH


H= a holiday from the usual place of residence ( preferably overseas with limited local language skills)

D= any event that precipitates pain, stress, financial loss, misery, tears, shouting or actual bodily harm

NHP= any normal happy event such as a dinner that is edible, a car that gets you from A to B without breaking down, a mobile phone that has signal when you want to use it or a swimming pool that is full of water on a hot day.


HSH = a heightened state of happiness.

I plan to post a few examples of D followed by NPE = HSH over the next little while so get your inner geek on, set up a journal club and join in the evaluation of the working theory.

End of holiday blues.

It’s always hard coming back after a holiday. Holidays mean the freedom of unscheduled days, hours of sunshine when I don’t have to be cooped up inside, an unspoken agreement that it’s OK to eat all those forbidden foods I usually ration out and a winding down from months of stressful work. It’s no surprise that I’m  grumpy and out of sorts when it all ends!

Heading off I feel it will all be worth the 26 hours of  airports and flights . I pack and repack happily, weighing suitcases to calculate how much I’ve left for the all important holiday buys. Do I really need those black sandals? Surely it won’t be cold enough for a jumper? I carefully choose a lightweight read and  even look forward to watching a few movies on the longhaul flight. I stock up on chocolate and nuts at the airport and look forward to 5 weeks of blissful sun, sea, culture and good food.

It’s a different story on the way home! I curse the extra sandals as I try to crush in the last of the gifts. I decide I’ll have to carry the thick and weighty jacket I had to buy because it did get cold enough for the jumper I didn’t pack – and it annoys me all the way home as I haul it in and out of overhead lockers. The movies are rubbish and I the books I chose is dull. I don’t have any chocolate because I couldn’t face the queue to buy it but that’s OK since I feel sick as a dog.

I can’t wait to be back in my own home but once I am there’s all that unpacking and washing and sorting of clothes . The piles of gifts sit and look at me accusingly as I try and work out when I’m going to get to see all the people I want to visit now that I’m not on holidays anymore. The rain pours down and my nose streams as I hack and splutter with a welcome home cold. Jet lag kicks in and I can’t sleep for nights on end – the days at work are a blur as I try and act professional through gritty eyes and gritted teeth. I almost resign on the first day back but manage to keep my mouth shut and get on with it.

A week later and sleep returns and the very next day I find myself planning next years holiday. After all there’s only 11 months to go!


A holiday short cut.

We just dropped our friends off at the airport yesterday and we’ll see them again in a week – in sunny Tuscany! I’ve packed the suitcase, sorted out the travel art kit and charged all the electronics. I’ve had the holiday haircut as well and it’s a little shorter than usual!

I have a strict haircut routine – when it starts to annoy me I go get it cut. In the lead up to this year’s holiday it started to annoy me some time ago and I tried desperately to hold out until closer to the off date but in the end I just couldn’t stand it ONE MORE DAY! So in I went and asked for a cut that would last me eight weeks – a pretty short cut thanks.

We chatted away as you do at the hairdressers- trying to take my mind of the ragged, lined and aging face in the mirror. I’m pretty relaxed about getting older, I started going grey in my early forties and never even thought about dying my hair, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy looking at my chicken neck for 30 minutes in the only mirrors I know that magnify every imperfection a thousand fold. Personally, a two minute session morning and night during the teeth brushing ritual is all I really need thanks.

Anyway, as we chatted the hair fell and I zoned out a bit until I heard her say ” I think a number 2 at the back and we’re done. A  number 2!!!! That’s really short – I know this because my second son has a perpetually no 2 shaven head- and I secretly long for the waist length locks he sported in his late teens. He never would let me plait it despite my pleadings – I was allowed the honour of chopping it all off one midnight when he got fed up with it. I wasn’t brave enough to take it short back and sides like he wanted and settled on a below the collar bob.

He asked me to cut it one Saturday just before he left for his pizza delivery shift and I promised I would when he got home. As soon as he was out the door I raced to google how to cut long hair and had a pretty intensive hour browsing tutorials and watching YouTube videos. By the time he got home I was feeling quietly confident. It all went to plan until I got to just below the collar and then I realised why hairdressers spend a 3 year apprenticeship learning how to layer and thin and generally tidy up the ends of wavy, fine hair. I was armed with good scissors, a comb and my trusty spray bottle of water so all I really lacked was knowledge – and experience. I’m afraid the final haircut bore testament to my lack but I’d left enough that the local  ( fully trained) hairdresser rescued it pretty neatly a few days later.

So , back to me sitting in the chair and hearing the number 2 at the back statement. I zoned in and noticed that it was looking a tad sparse on the top, spiky and swirly, but not anywhere near a number 2 so that was a bit of a relief. With the mirror held so I could see the back the number 2 was evident. I was a bit surprised at how acquiescent I’d been during the whole cut – I think a spot of hypnosis might have been employed – but I had asked for a short cut and there was no denying it was a short cut!

It took a few days for my work mates to start commenting on it – I think they were a bit stunned at first and wanted the weekend to mull it over. The general consensus is that it’s a very fetching look and I should keep it this way. People I don’t even know are stopping me in the corridor to tell me how good I look ( of course this could just be a reflection of how bad my previous cut was !).

Well , that was work . The Writer thinks it makes me look old and tired  and I had to point out that I actually feel old and tired so it’s probably just reflecting the real me. I did add that I always perk up and feel 10 years younger on holiday so not to worry. I was able to take the moral high ground with Second Son who enquired if I’d come out – it was a pleasure to remind him that stereotyping people wasn’t very cool ( usually the sons are making unnecessarily patronising statements  about any views, opinions or passing comments I express). The IT Geek said he didn’t approve of such homophobic comments but felt any haircut that made it possible to see the colour of someone’s scalp was just plain awful. So not an unequivocal success on the home front. All in all it’s a good thing I’m a strong, independent woman who can take uninhibited critique from the men in my life.


Now I’ve had 2 weeks to settle into it I’m a fan. It’s going to be really cool in the heat of an Italian summer, there’s so little of it I no longer have to worry about “helmet hair” when riding my scooter to work , I instantly lost that last kilo I’ve been trying to shed and the savings on shampoo will probably fund my next hair cut. I feel ever so slightly trendy , a lot lighter and ready for a holiday.