On June 13th 2013 my brother, Tony Hatch, was in New York where he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. When I was a very young girl we would have regular family evenings with Tony playing the piano and the rest of us singing. (That’s me on top of the piano in the photo above.) Often on a Sunday we would travel to Bedforshire to my mother’s sister where other aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive and we would all sit round a huge dining room table (it was a full size snooker table with a cover on it) and eat roast dinner cooked on her Aga. I remember the delicious sticky meringues she made for dessert. Of course we were lucky to have a relation with a large enough room to accommodate us all. After lunch all the kids would pile out into the garden to play. I lost contact with my cousins for some years but I’m glad to report that more recently we have been in touch again.

I think the Italian family is still a very strong unit. I was chatting the other day to an English friend and we commented on the style of housing here where there are many large properties, old and new, divided into two or three apartments. Instead of being occupied by different families these apartments house different generations of the same family; ground floor grandparents, first floor parents and younger children, top floor married son/daughter and their family. I haven’t researched this but I don’t think families in the UK would take to this mode of living but here it works very well. Babysitters are on hand and there is always help for the older generation without having to call in too much in the way of home help or putting older relations into homes unless absolutely necessary. Of course, they don’t always live together in harmony!

The typical Italian family here in Le Marche live a very close knit life, coming together on Sundays for church and massive family meals in large restaurants or each others houses. Many Italians don’t move far from home, particularly in the rural areas, although that could be changing as these days there is a need to travel further afield for work. In my capacity as English teacher I am always amazed at how many cousins are at school together, sometimes six or seven in the same class of twenty students. This reinforces my belief that Italian families stay close together.

Our family are now spread all over the world, New York, Singapore, Wales, England and extended family in New Zealand and other far flung places, but I’m pleased to say that when we get together there’s always someone to pick up a guitar, play the piano or the harmonica and everyone joins in with a song or two. We enjoy big family meals too! Haven’t quite mastered the technique for the meringues though.

Telling a Story and Being a Tourist…

On Friday 8th June we went to Rome for the night, specifically, so that I could be one of the storytellers at a storytelling event. We’d never attended anything like it before and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I looked on The Moth website and I tried to follow the advice they gave. There were ten storytellers and each one recounted an incident (or two) that had happened to them during their lifetime.

I was nervous but once I got started I found it easy to do and thoroughly enjoyed it. The knack I think is to ‘act’ out your story, it keeps the audience interested. You should also have a bit of a surprise element in there somewhere, a bit of drama, some comedy, throw a bit of everything into the pot and finally, don’t let it go on too long. Thanks to the Beehive Hotel for setting up the evening, I’m pretty sure it will become a regular event.


Every time we drive to Rome we say we’re going to go to the Tivoli Gardens on the way home and then we don’t do it. This time we had decided that we would leave early on the Saturday morning to make our way back to Le Marche and definitely stop at Hadrian’s Villa and then the Tivoli Gardens.

pillars2 Hadriantree

Hadrian’s Villa was easy to find and the parking was good. We paid €11 each for a ticket which entitled us to go through the turnstile and wander around the ruins. We weren’t given a plan of the area, I think that was only handed out if you ordered an audio guide, but there were plenty of ‘you are here’ maps dotted about.

I had imagined the ruins of a big Roman House, what I didn’t expect was that Hadrian’s Villa was actually the size of a village. It took a couple of hours walking to see as much as we could. I loved the lake, which had fish and turtles moving lazily in the warm water. The wall, which I think was the boundary of the estate, is a magnificent piece of architecture. Hadrian certainly knew how to build a good wall.


There were the baths, always a feature in any Roman ruin. It was possible to see from the remains, the extent of the massive buildings, the areas of beautiful gardens, the library, the guest apartments. I love visiting these places and imagining children running around the streets, shop keepers busy selling their wares and the rich Roman men and women strolling along the cobbled paths or sitting in the shade under the olive trees sipping red wine and eating, well, olives I suppose. Life must have been pretty tough for most of the population but I get an overwhelming sense of closeness to history when I touch the old stones and know for sure that another person has been in that very place well over a thousand years before me. It’s the old ‘shivers down the spine’ syndrome.


We left Hadrian’s Villa behind us and went in search of the Tivoli Gardens. Our first mistake was in calling them the Tivoli Gardens, which is in fact an amusement park in Copenhagen Denmark. The Villa D’Este is the place one should be heading for, but even then it is not easy to find. We had to ask at least three times and drove around in circles for about half an hour. The site is smack in the centre of Tivoli but the signs run out and there simply isn’t anything to show you where to park or where the entrance to the house and garden is. It was pure luck that I saw a little arrow indicating a pedestrian walkway to Villa D’Este.

The Entrance to Villa D'Este
The Entrance to Villa D’Este

By this time my husband was becoming a little frustrated to say the least, then he couldn’t find a ticket machine that was working, so by the time we found the entrance his mood was less than amenable. We’d had a good weekend so far but the cash was low, another €11 each to get in and he only had €15. ‘Do you take cards’ he asked.
‘Yes, we take Bancomat, only Bancomat.’
My dear husband had a bit of a hissy fit about the fact that, ‘not only is one of the most well known tourist attractions in Italy virtually impossible to find, you only take Italian bank cards when surely a good majority of your clients come from all over the world!’ the voice was rising and so was the temperature.
I saved the day by finding €10 cash in my purse. Phew!

Eagle Fountain
Eagle Fountain


I’m beginning to bore myself with this blog so I’m going to wind it up by saying that even though we did have enormous difficulty in locating the Villa D’Este, with its wonderful gardens it was definitely worth it. The fountains are amazing and the gardens beautifully laid out. The terraces are steep but it’s easy to walk back up to the top as they have gentle slopes and many steps and if you follow the plan you won’t miss a single fountain.

fountainbig fountain tivoli1

Piles of Clothing…

June is here and it’s time for the summer clothes and beachwear to come out. Most of the time in Italy, the temperatures remain pretty warm from now on, late 20’s and low 30’s, last year it hit 40 quite a few times. I find wearing something soft, long and floaty is comfortable, topped off with a large straw hat. Then I can imagine I’m Maggie Smith in My House in Umbria, she was only a little older than I am now when she made the film in 2003. She is not a great deal taller than me, 1.64.m and I’m 1.57, but there the similarity ends, she is slim and I am not, so she gives the impression of being tall and slender. I’m not sure exactly what impression I give but it aint tall and slender.

I sorted through my clothing to put away the winter things and find some summer stuff and there were three categories,

1. Keep,
2. Throw
3. Should throw but can’t so ends up in the keep pile.

The last on the list is interesting and I’m sure we all have this problem. I actually stood holding a couple of items knowing that I would never wear them again but just couldn’t bring myself to put them in the ‘throw pile’. One was a black, low cut top made from sheer material, very sexy, (for anyone under forty). The other is the dress/top that I got married in a couple of years ago, I loved it when I bought it, the shape was/is good but the pattern horrendous. When I saw the photographs afterwards I thought, ‘oh dear, not the right choice’, but, obviously I couldn’t put it in the throw pile.

I wasn’t the only one throwing out items, my husband was also sorting through his clothes and he was very bad…T shirts, shirts, trousers all well past their sell by date and ALL of them were in the ‘keep pile’ and they clearly belonged the third option. One summer shirt has been in the wardrobe for well over twenty years, its a favourite and comes out for birthdays.

I have never been able to make up my mind which style of dress is for me. I fancy being young and punk but it’s beginning to look a bit ‘naff’ I’d like to be classical and ‘arty’ but the shape can’t really carry it off. I can’t be bothered with ‘designer’ stuff because it’s far too expensive and frankly, who cares? I’m happy in jeans or jeggings and a sloppy top but I do like the opportunity to dress up. I’m more comfortable in trousers these days but if I could I would love to wear a slinky dress,(there are a couple of those in the should throw but can’t pile). I’m not keen on the more mature woman wearing strappy tops or strapless so all those items have hit the throw heap. Bikinis are a definite no-no, I’m sure my new granddaughter will not want to see Nonna on the beach baring all!

I love the idea of wearing jeans, doc martins, a baggy T-shirt with a punky slogan and a denim jacket. I also like the idea of wearing a smart tailored suit, but the need never arises these days. My daughter is very good at styling and she is extremely helpful but lives over 4,000 miles away and I look different on Skype! She did however give me a red top recently and when I wear it people make flattering comments, ‘you look nice today,’ ‘I like that top on you!’ I think red must be my colour. Pity I’ve only got the one item then – oh apart from the M&S cardigan.

I think I’m going to sum this up by saying I have an eclectic taste in clothing and that I try to dress to fit the occasion. I am a chameleon though not one that wants to fade into the background. I think that’s the actress in me.

Have you got a favourite item of clothing you can’t part with?

Now then, where is that sexy black top, it might just go with my white leggings and stilettos for this weekend…ONLY JOKING!

P.S. We’re off to Rome for the evening tomorrow for a story telling evening at the Beehive Hotel I’m one of the storytellers (Yikes). I’ll let you know how it goes and what I wear.
What does a storyteller wear?