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This week I’m loving…

Summer feels as if it has well and truly arrived this week. Not only have I have been to Wimbledon (I got tickets in the ballot for the very first time!) I’ve spent a few days in St Ives, one of my favourite places in the world. Here’s some things I’ve enjoyed….

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Breakfast by the beach. The view! The granola! Thoroughly recommend you check out the West Beach Bakery if you’re in the area.

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Chocolarder chocolate. I’ve noticed lots of ‘small batch bean to bar’ chocolate recently. But this is one of the best. I couldn’t resist the Wild Gorse flavour – and didn’t even realise Wild Gorse tasted of coconut!

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The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. My holiday read. Think a more historical version of One Day. It gets a bit confusing in places, jumping between the three different versions of a love story, and although (for me,) it’s not as good as David Nicholls bestseller or Kate Atkinson’s similar Life After Life, it’s still impossible not to get swept away by this moving story of what ifs.

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Celebrating my brilliant sister’s new job (she’s the new editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine) at Wimbledon. With Pimms.

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Toasting our 11th wedding anniversary in St Ives.

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The Season

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Can we talk about The Season for a minute, a concept that first came to my attention when I got hold of a copy of the
Sloane Rangers handbook back in the Eighties. How I loved that book. For a teenager growing up in Manchester it seemed incredibly exotic and glamorous, even though when I finally got to London, I realised that a world of penny loafers and red cords wasn’t really what I aspired to at all.
Of course Sloanes don’t really exist anymore. Wealthy Chelsea girls are more likely to be reality TV stars these days rather than Montessori teachers and you’ll find the Hooray Henry’s with a beard living in Hoxton. But the Season still exists and over the the past couple of weeks I’ve popped along to the polo, sipped Pimms at Wimbledon and enjoyed the gardens at the Hampton Court Flower Show (less busy than Chelsea) and decided it’s the best of British distilled down for a more democratic age.

I wrote about the Season in my novel The Proposal and even as recently as the Fifties it was still something very much reserved for members of the social elite. But hop onto Debrett’s website and you’ll find everything from the Boat Race and Bestival to Whiststable Oyster Festival and the Secret Garden Party showing that there’s something in the modern Season for everything taste and price-point.

Season must-dos

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The Summer Exhibition.
Not only can you visit the RA’s summer exhibition you can go in for it. The deadline for submissions is February

Wimbledon
I got tickets in the ballot for the first time this year. Get your application form from the AELTC and apply by December.

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Verve Cliquot Gold Cup Polo
Such a democratic event – we once actually sat behind Prince Harry in the stands.

Cowes Week
You don’t have to sail, just grab a pint and watch the sight of dozen of boats carve through the Solent

This week I’m loving

Do you keep a diary? I used to. I found a box of them under the bed (!) and hours slipped by as I read my thoughts and tales of adventure from 1995 to 2000. They stopped around the time I met my husband. Perhaps falling in love made me a little less introspective – I don’t know. Anyway – I thought I’d start a week in view. Mostly it’s to share some good stuff that I’ve enjoyed, but I think a little bit of is to get back to my old journal loving self. After all – there’s no better way to remember the minutiae of our lives.

Wimbledon Fair – at the start of Wimbledon week! The sun was shining, we won a salad bowl on the tombola, the whole village was buzzing with tennis players in the streets and every shop and cafe is getting into the swing of it with tennis ball window displays and green and purple flags hanging from almost every roof.

Qcumber water. I don’t drink very much, so wine o’clock sort of passes me by. But sometimes it’s nice to have a cold glass of something really refreshing on a balmy evening and sparkling water and diet coke can sometimes get a bit boring – so it was great to discover Qcumber. It’s light and fizzy and a tiny bit Pimmsy. Try it.

Manning the face-painting stall at the school fair – I was chuffed with my Spider-man art work!

My friends Chris and Ian’s Open Garden afternoon, part of the Bedford Park Festival. I love the idea of Open Gardens. They create such great community sprit and I love seeing the glorious gardens hidden behind unassuming walls.

Discovering perfect tee-shirt dresses in Gap

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Seeing my son Fin in his production of Oliver (and being very proud of his cockney accent!)

Hearing Nick Hornby in conversation

Creating a micro-restaurant in our garden (moving the table and chairs into the sun) and have a lunch date with my husband.

Being a big kid and going on the Umbrella ride at the fun-fair

Seeing my new web-site finally up and running!

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21 reasons why I love Cornwall

The beaches can be as golden as Caribbean sand but they have a rugged beauty all of their own

You can buy delicious crab sandwiches in most decent cafes

You can turn a corner and see an honesty box

Or a box of sea urchins for sale

The juice bar at the Eden Project

Fish and chips at the Portminster cafe

The farmhouse cream teas down bumpy dirt-tracks

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The surfing at Porthmeor beach

Hot chocolate with whipped cream at the Hidden Hut at Porthscatho

The whiff of smugglers on deserted headlands

You can walk barefoot through the streets

And waste hours going crabbing

Time seems to go slower

You can walk down a country lane and feel as if you are heading off on a Famous Five adventure

The quality of the beachcombing booty

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The peachy St Ives light and glorious sunsets

It’s beautiful even when it’s cold and bleak

The fog that swirls over Bodmin – sometimes scary, always atmospheric

The amazing food thanks to fresh ingredients

The sight of clear jade water

Taking the ferry from St Mawes to Place

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Aerin body creams

One of the things I miss most about working in magazines is the beauty sales. Shallow I know – but the beauty cupboard really was a thing of… well, beauty. I didn’t even use half the stuff I was given, I used to take it out of my bathroom cabinet every so often and just look at it and it never failed to be me in a better mood.
My friend Suzanne shares my love of beauty products and we were in Selfridges the other day for a girlie catch-up and discovered these delicious Aerin body creams. I love the Aerin range – the products are excellent and useful – perfect for the busy, modern woman and the creams are something else – they just smell so good. The Ikat Jasmine reminds you of a balmy Mediterranean summer evening, one whiff of the Gardenia and I’m in a gorgeous moonlit garden with a glass of champagne in my hand.
Problem was – when we went to buy one – they were all sold out but I’m looking forward to going to the Hamptons this summer where Aerin has an entire shop!
One of the best things about the Aerin products is the aspirational brand she had built around her vision. She lives that chic lifestyle too – check out her office which was featured in Architectural Digest magazine. Have you ever seen a more gorgeous working space?

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Glamorous gardening

I’ve come up with a new word. Glardening.
Glam + gardening = glardening

I had this epiphany yesterday when I headed down to the very chic and lovely Petersham Nurseries to go to a ‘Planting in the shade’ workshop with my friend Sandra.
I have to admit, I wasn’t overly excited by the idea of going on a gardening course at first – I was more interested in having lunch afterwards. I don’t have green fingers. Even my potted Basil plants from the supermarket die within a couple of days. And besides, isn’t what gardening what you get into when you retire?
But – I loved it. I learnt such a lot, (our tutor Martin has a brilliant web-site www.teddingtongardener.com) and it made me realise just how good it is spend time outdoors.
I don’t know about you, but I spend most of my day sitting in front of a screen, so it was a feast for the senses being able to see and smell all the wonderful flowers and foliage.
I discovered a plant with gold tipped leaves (Daphne), found out that my favourite hydragenas would love my shady patio if I gave it lots of water, and that you can get rid of slugs by watering your flowers with a garlic and water solution.

Petersham Nurseries are running a slow gardening event in July which sounds fantastic.

As they say on their website – slow life in the fast lane.

Some plants that don’t mind the shade: including hydragenas, daphne, foxgloves and calla lilies.

Summer in Paris

I love Paris. Now wonder it has feature in three of my novels; Guilty Pleasures, Perfect Strangers, and most recently The Last Kiss Goodbye.
One of my favourite things to do in summer is book a cheap Eurostar ticket and head off to the City of Light for the night and it never ceases to feel such a decadent and romantic thing to do. I particularly like going in August. The Parisians are en vacances so many shops and cafes are shut but on the upside, the city has a glorious holiday feel, ‘beaches’ pop up along the Seine and you’re more likely to enjoy the city rather than simply shop. When you’re in Paris for such a short time, pick a couple of arrondissement to linger and browse around rather than rush around Paris trying to see everything.

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Watch the world go by from the Seine
Most people cruise the Seine on the tourist boats such as the Bateaux Mouches. I prefer the Batobus. There’s no guide but your ticket lasts all day and we hopped on and off at all the main sights like Notre Dame and the Louvre. I find the cruise is best enjoyed with a box of macaroons sold at most Parisian patesseries particularly the caramelized fennel ones sold at Pierre Herme.

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Browse a bookshop
Anyone who loves books should come to the Shakespeare and Co bookshop on Paris’s Left Bank at least once in their life-time. Browse the tome crammed aisles (like Hemingway and Fitzgerald did in their day,) check out the nooks and crankies (I love the tiny writing hut) and listen to someone tinkling on the rickety piano upstairs. And I couldn’t resist leaving a ‘Tasmina Perry was here’ note on the velvet framed pinboard. There are thousands of English books on sale and lots of great talks and special events in the evenings too. I also like the Abbey bookshop round the corner.
Shakespeare and Co – 37 Rue de La Bucherie

Try the world’s best falafel
When my sister lived in Paris we always used to come to the Rue des Rosiers in the Marais for our Sunday afternoon falafel and it’s still a must-do port of call when I come. There’s long queues at the two foodie institutions L’As du Falafel and Chez Hanna but it’s worth the wait.
Chez Hanna – Rue Des Rosiers

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Go shopping in the Marais
I love the Marias for its chic, cosmopolitan and buzzy atmosphere. It’s the heart of the Jewish quarter so many shops and cafés are open on Sunday when much of Paris shuts down.
Some of my favourite places are the Zadig and Voltaire outlet shop and a fantastic tea shop Mariage Freres for their delicious assortment of teas and candles. Both are on Rue Du Bourg Tilbourg which is handily around the corner from the falafel shops.

Have a hamman
One of my swankiest every days in Paris involved an afternoon at Les Bains Du Marias followed by supper at Le Voltaire restaurant and if you ever want to treat yourself I recommend either – or both. Les Bains is a gloriously atmospheric spa and hamman in the Marais. The massages are particularly good (although a note of caution – they expect to strip off completely!)
Les Bains Du Marias, 31 Rue Des Blancs

Flaneur with an ice-cream
Pole Sud glace is made with cream and mountain magic in the Pyrenees. But I found it in the La Boulangerie du Papa on Rue de La Huchette. Paris is full of amazing ice-cream. I couldn’t resist another cone from Berthillon which has lots of mouth watering flavours like nougat and peach sorbet. Their shop in on Ile Saint-Louis but many cafes in Paris also sell it. We ate ours on the bridge between Saint Louis and Ile de la Cite and watched a very good street artist ride his bike like a unicycle.

Watch the sunset in Montmartre
People think Montmatre is touristy and tacky but I love it, even although I am less fond of the 300+ step walk to get to the famous Place du Tertre. It’s like stepping back in time at the topof the hill– you half expect to see Toulouse Lautrec sitting at a street-side cafe, whilst the views of the city from the Sacre Coeur are magnificent. My favourite soap shop Fragonard is also at the foot of the funicular/steps on the Rue Tardieu.

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Scale the Eiffel
The Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid attraction in the world and with good reason. Book online to save long queue times – I found going to the second floor rather than the top is enough to take in the vista. The best views of the Eiffel can be had from Le Place du Trocadero

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Sunlounger Reads

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Here’s a few things I’ve read and think you might like. And a few things I’ve bought and can’t wait to read on my holiday.

The Vacationers – Emma Straub
A dark, smart story of a family holidaying in a Balearics villa, but delicious descriptions of Majorca make the island the star of the novel.

Haus Frau – Jill Alexander Essbaum
A literary Fifty Shades apparently with a fresh Zurich setting.

Black Rabbit Hall – Eve Chase
I’m Cornwall crazy, especially after Poldark, so I loved this gothic time-slip story set on the Roseland peninsula. It’s written by a friend of mine and I heard about it at idea stage so it’s great to see it as one of this summer’s buzzy books.

Career Game – Louise Mensch
Ready and waiting on my kindle. The sequel to Career Girls which was one of my favourite guilty pleasure reads of the 90’s.

Godchildren – Nicholas Coleridge
A classic summer blockbuster full of tart social observations and flamboyant villains. Fabulous.

Summer Secrets – Jane Green
I love Jane Green’s relationship dramas set in gorgeous East coast settings.

I Let You Go – Clare Macintosh.
Three people in three days have told me what a great book is.

This lovely sunlounger picture is courtesy of Michael Kors – it’s enough to make anyone want to jet off somewhere sunny.

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