Monday, May 30, 2011

Make for Macmillan book auction

Current work: Medical
Listening to: John Martyn (mix from Solid Air and Bless the Weather, my two fave albums)
Reading: Wondrous Strange, Lesley Livingston (enjoyed this very much – great characterisation and an interesting take on fairies); Her Last Night of Innocence, India Grey (lovely intense read); Winter Rose, Patricia McKillip (lovely prose)

I think most readers of this blog will have twigged by now that finding a cure for cancer and dementia are causes fairly close to my heart – I lost my mum and dad respectively to them. And those who know me in real life have been cajoled into buying/making cakes over the ten years I chaired a fundraising committee for cancer research, or entering my evil ‘postal’ quiz, or – well, generally giving money and time to support an excellent cause.

So when I discovered via some of my FB author mates that Clare and Shelley were doing an auction of signed books to raise money for Macmillan nurses, they could definitely count me in too; my book in the auction is a copy of The Fireman and Nurse Loveday.

The auction starts on Facebook here today and ends on Sunday 5 June at 8pm (UK time). There are some fabulous books on offer (and I’m not just saying it because I know some of the authors personally – they really are good), so if you like reading and you want to help a good cause, go and be part of the auction.

There’s also a list of the books here, if you want to check them out.

I don’t care whose book you bid for (this isn’t about ego or self-publicity) – please, just bid, and do something to help the nurses who do a brilliant job in supporting people with cancer. Thanks! :o)

Friday, May 27, 2011

and back again…

Current work: just finished revisions to Riva
Listening to: Daughtry
Reading: Maggie Stiefvater, Linger (OK but didn’t enjoy as much as Shiver, probably because it’s written from four POVs in the first person and the format jars a bit with me. She does flag up the chapter/section within the chapter with the characters’ name, but for me that’s a bit head-hoppy and it’s very tricky to pull off, especially if two of the characters are a bit difficult to sympathise with. However the ending is a great cliffhanger and I will read #3)

Finished my revisions – phew! Which means I can enjoy half term hols without ripping my hair out. Holiday working schedule means first thing in the morning (aka my best time) while everyone’s asleep, and I can write first draft/new stuff very happily then – but not revisions, where I need complete silence and space. So that’s one thing off my desk, and now I can settle back in to the Med. And hope that lovely ed sends me a nice email next week that will see me trotting off to the Pandora shop :o)

Blogging will be pretty intermittent next week as it’s half term and I won’t be online so much. Whatever you’re doing, have a great week!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Current work: revisions to Riva
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Pamela Dean, Tam Lin (really, really enjoyed it – brought back memories of my own student days, though it seems that the US and UK degree systems are very different (I would’ve had a hissy fit if I’d had to do PE classes as part of my English degree) and there are huge differences between student life in the early 1970s and in the mid-1980s. I especially enjoyed the many lit and Classics quotes and allusions and it's tempted me to go back and reread some Renaissance drama - note to self, take son to see Jacobean revenge tragedies as he'll enjoy them)

The revisions have landed, and they’re not as bad as I was expecting. One of them was my ed’s way of saying “get rid of all the Austen references”. (And that alone would make the godmothers laugh, because – well, I’m no Janeite. My mum, bless her, thought she was giving me a huge treat when she spied Mansfield Park on my shelves and bought me the rest of JA for Christmas that year. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that MP was only there as it was a first-year set text, it was utter torture and I loathed it. I did promise myself that I would try rereading it every ten years, to see if I’d matured enough to appreciate it. Um, not yet, but I’m overdue to try again in three years...)

So I’m printing the book out, single spaced and on “fast draft” so I don’t waste too much ink and paper, and I’ll be working in the dining room today, spreading out the papers and scribbling all over them with a red pen. Might allow myself a teensy break with the piano. But I'd better shut the door to the conservatory as it has a siren song – it’s my favourite reading spot in the house. The sofa’s the perfect length to sprawl on with my feet on one arm, and the dog fits nicely under my knees. With the doors open to hear birdsong and let in a cool breeze and the scent of the philadelphus, it’s just perfect.

However. I loafed like that all afternoon yesterday (deserved, after a ton of admin), so today is definitely a work day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

a day of the fidgets

Current work: admin
Listening to: Sandy Denny
Reading: Forgotten, Cat Patrick (nice debut – loved the premise behind this, i.e. the heroine couldn’t remember her past but she could remember forwards)

Lovely ed emailed me yesterday to say that second revs are going to hit today. So there’s no point in me getting too deeply into writing another book, because I’ll need to switch worlds in my head back to the book that needs revisions. (Please, please, please don't let them be huge.)

It’s half term next week and we have a lot lined up. Although I can write new stuff first thing in the morning while the kids are still asleep, when it comes to revisions I need something completely different: a quiet and empty house, a decent chunk of time (aka 8.45-2.15) ti work, and I’ll working on paper rather than on screen.

This is why I have the fidgets particularly badly today. I know I have work to do, I know my time is going to be limited to do said work, and there's nothing I can do except wait. It’s like waiting for a dental appointment when you suspect root canal work is going to be mentioned. (I know, I know, I sound like a diva today. Ask any other author, and I bet they'll say they feel the same - the longer the revisions take to come back to you, the more you build it up in your mind, and it's when you kind of regret having an imagination. And they will also admit to checking their email six million times - and then the spam box, in case the ISP is having a bad day and ate ed's email.)

So I need to be busy, but I don’t want to start writing and have to break off. There are three things I need to tackle at the top of my to-do list. The first is to tidy my office, which I’ve been putting off for months and it’s B-A-D. (I’m saving that for next week, when my strange-child-who-actually-likes-tidying is home and has promised to help me. This is probably going to cost me in Monsoon, but I can live with that.) The second is some fairly important admin (i.e. it will affect my finances – not filing, which goes in the same category of ‘tidy office’ and is actually most of the reason why office isn't tidy). The third is updating my website, which I've neglected and only done the bare minimum on since the autumn, when Real Life got very much in the way.
This morning I’ve updated my website. (Hand-coding stuff is great for distraction. You have to concentrate, so you can't think about revisions.) This afternoon, it’s the admin. And then, depending on whether the revisions arrive before I have to leave for the school run, I’ll either print out the book so I can red-pen it in the car, or I’ll take the next book off my TBR pile to read while I’m waiting for littlest to come out of school.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the end of the world…

Current work: new Medical plus nerdy side project (henceforth NSP)
Listening to: Sandy Denny
Reading: Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver (loved the world-building in this, to the point where I’ve ordered #2 and pre-ordered #3 in the trilogy)

The doom-prophesiers were convinced that the world was going to end on Sunday. Um, we’re still around, unless I’ve missed something dramatic. Though it’s been incredibly blowy around here, and there was the eruption of the volcano in Iceland…

Now, we all know I have a fascination for volcanoes, so there have been suggestions floated. (Especially since I caught a programme a few days ago where Julia Buckley walked upon Eyjafjallajökull – definitely inspired scenes for the medical after next.) My family is, however, eminently sensible, so volcanic stuff has been relegated to bookworld only :o)

And that’s where I need to be right now – it’s half term next week (meaning intermittent blogging then) and I need to be ahead of myself, especially as I know second revisions are going to hit this week and they’ll need to be my top priority. Still. I am sort of organised again. Fingers crossed for tiny revisions and a few weeks of calm. And most definitely not Armageddon-type stuff…

Monday, May 23, 2011

a weekend of partying means a week of solid work…

Current work: new Medical plus nerdy stuff
Listening to: Sandy Denny
Reading: Diana Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock (really enjoyed this)

The scales are not best pleased with me this morning. Possibly because we were out to dinner on Friday night to celebrate son’s birthday (and I was reasonably good – coffee instead of pudding, and chose a sensible main course: off the specials board, sticky pork loin i.e. marinated in honey, cinnamon and paprika, though actually it tasted as if they used quite a bit of fresh chilli). Kind of went on from there. Saturday was shopping for the party, getting some work done (ahem, side project, but I need something nerdy otherwise I’ll end up with super-hideous revisions on the M&Bs), Chinese takeaway… And Sunday was just brilliant. Was a bit too blowy to sit outside for too long, with the wind roaring in the trees, but we still managed a Nerf war and a barbecue. It was lovely to chill out with a glass of wine/cup of tea and talk to our bestest family (which includes bestest friend - as the children's godmother, she's definitely family).

Today I have a house full of flowers (including gorgeous-smelling stocks and lovely bright sunflowers) and a fridge full of – oh, man, it needs a lock on it. The salady bits and leftover barbecued chicken fillets are fine (it will take all of five seconds to make lunch today and dog will be immensely pleased with his share of the chicken) but the box of Lindors maybe should’ve gone to work with DH…

Righty. To work. An hour on the side project to keep my inner nerd happy, then full on with the book. (Especially as we have the same thing all over again – dinner out and then weekend of barbecues – for DH’s birthday, the weekend after next!)

Friday, May 20, 2011

a special day...

Current work: new Medical (still antsy about revisions but must knuckle down)
Listening to: Nickelback
Reading: next on TBR

Fourteen years ago today, I was on day two of labour; and (at the time of writing) I still had another 10 hours or so of epidural top-ups to go…

But the result was worth the wait.

Happy 14th birthday to my eldest - aka my new theatre buddy - who’s grown up to be a nice guy and excellent company.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Current work: new Medical (and getting slightly antsy about revisions - waiting never gets easier)
Listening to: Nickelback
Reading: next on TBR

This is the very first rose blooming on the Brother Cadfael rose that my agent sent me when my dad died. So I’m planning to cut this tomorrow and put it on his grave. Am trying to think of it as a celebration of life, but to be honest I’m still finding it pretty hard to come to terms with having both parents gone – with a child still at junior school, I just don’t feel old enough.

Bit out of sorts today, so will shut up and stop whining – other people have it much harder than I do.

Have a nice day :o)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Current work: new Medical
Listening to: Bach
Reading: next on TBR

This week is really turning out to have a watery theme – today’s muse is about canals. Yup, it’s another BBC4 programme I caught (Kate Nerdy gives a happy sigh), this time on the golden age of canals. Fascinating. Given the fact that fuel prices are rising so rapidly, I wonder whether horse-drawn barges might become a viable form of transport again in a few years?

I have been toying with a canal story for a while (had a brilliant lightbulb from a fellow author) but haven’t managed to get it to work for my editor. There is officially only one canal in my part of the world (the North Walsham and Dilham canal) and only a small part of it is still navigable. So if/when I do write my canal boat story, it won’t be set locally. And it might morph rather a lot from the original lightbulb – which has to stay in the back of my head for now, as I have a deadline to work towards.

Best canal boat story ever? Katie Fforde’s “The Rose Revived”. I think it’s still my favourite of her books – very, very funny and wonderful dialogue.

And the one canal-related topic I do not want to hear about today is a different sort of canal: root canal work. Yup, it’s D-word day here for me and the kids. Just a check-up, and our dentist is utterly lovely, but I still have to pretend to be brave for the children’s sake :o)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

putting clues together

Current work: new Medical
Listening to: Bach
Reading: finished Milly Johnson, Here Come the Girls (very witty, very warm – great read and a definite quartet of happy endings)

According to my mum, one of her great-grandmothers was a Danish midwife. My uncle, however, heard a different story: that one of their great-grandfathers was a Danish sea captain. I also have a theory that the creative/arty gene is on my mum’s side (she also used to write, and her mother played the piano). As my mum and grandparents are no longer with us and my aunts and uncles can’t tell me much, that leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions and a pet research project (to be worked on ONLY when I have hit daily targets, so it’s my carrot), i.e. to find out a bit more about her family. They’re split between London and Hampshire, which means I can’t use the archives locally; so, at the moment, I’m using the internet.

So far, my research has turned up some interesting little things (like the fact that my great-grandfather James was a jeweller’s carman - I knew he was a hansom cab driver, but apparently it was for a posh London jeweller). And my great-great-grandmother Emily was a witness to her daughter’s wedding and signed her name on the marriage certificate with a cross; this was as late as 1905 so I was quite shocked, until I thought about it and realised that she probably wouldn’t have gone to school. (She did however run her own business – she was a laundress – and apparently, the area in which she lived was known for its laundries, which dealt with Southampton’s ocean liners.)

Genealogy is all about putting clues together, but also about making sure that they’re the right clues. So it’s supposition and a hunch, then finding the proof for it. And then sometimes you get stuck. Which I am, at the moment, so I’m waiting for a birth certificate and a marriage certificate to arrive; then I can hopefully work back through the next layer.

Is anyone else out there doing a bit of family research? Have you discovered anything interesting? (This is a question with my “nosey genealogist” hat on, btw, not “author as magpie”! Though I do have a bit of a lightbulb flickering...)

Monday, May 16, 2011

sons of the sea

Current work: new Medical
Listening to: Genesis, Wind & Wuthering (am not allowed to have this actually playing when car door opens to disgorge a child, LOL – officially I am now an Embarrassing Parent)
Reading: finished Milly Johnson, Here Come the Girls (very witty, very warm – v recommended)

Caught a really interesting programme yesterday on BBC4 with Gareth Malone about sea shanties. My grandparents were both in the navy (grandfather in Merchant Navy, I think, and grandmother in the WRNS) and I can remember various little bits of sailor-wisdom passed down to me through my mum (eg ‘if there’s enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers it won’t rain’ and the reason why you have to bash in the bottom of a boiled egg’s shell once you’ve eaten the egg).

Some of the songs they sang were ones I remember from school (the most well-known ones, “What shall we do with a drunken sailor”) and some they didn’t actually sing but the music was on the screen for a few seconds (such as “Rio Grande”). And it brought back other memories: at baby music classes, we learned some sea songs, one of which I started singing to my dad (because it was new to me) and was surprised when he joined in. (Hence the title of this post: “Sons of the sea, bobbing up and down like this” – it’s a great knee-ride song for littlies.) Others I remember from school are “The Mermaid” (“One Friday morn, as we set sail, and our ship not far from the land, I there did espy a pretty, pretty maid with a comb and a glass in her hand” etc) and “Blackbird” (“If I was a blackbird, I’d whistle and sing, and follow the ship that my true love sails in”).

I particularly enjoyed hearing the 93- and 97-year-old Scotswomen singing the songs from their days as herring girls. (Local to me, that one, because Great Yarmouth – all of half an hour from here – was once THE port for herring.) I do hope that part of our musical heritage doesn’t disappear, because it doesn’t seem to be part of the curriculum any more.

Does anyone out there have favourite “sea” songs they remember singing at school as a child?

Friday, May 13, 2011

the best part of a book...

Current work: new Medical plus new Riva idea and a couple of other things...
Listening to: Peter Gabriel
Reading: Milly Johnson, Here Come the Girls (very witty, very warm – enjoying hugely)

Have finished boring everyone with Rome, now :o) And I was going to post this morning, but Blogger wouldn’t let me. Hopefully it will work now.

Today the sky has been blue, my revisions are in (ha – waiting for them to come back with yet more changes, sigh), and I have been working on a new book. Or so.

The first is the next book with a deadline, i.e. the new Medical. I’ve scrapped the beginning and rewritten it, but as the deadline isn’t until the middle of next month that hasn’t sent me into that much of a panic. Although I’m a planner and know exactly what I’m doing, the plan is fluid at this point, and if I get a better idea for getting the hero and heroine between the turning points then I can go with it.

Then there’s the follow-up book – it’s a little bit out of the box and my ed might regret saying yes to the very scrappy outline. But then I caught this fabulous programme about Iceland on BBC4 and it’s just what my hero would do, walk up a volcano. Actually, I’d love to write that one now but I can’t because the stuff that happens in the current one has to happen first, and I guess readers don’t really like working backwards.

I’m also playing with my Riva idea; however, the one I wanted to set in Rome probably isn’t going to work for my editor (at least, not how it is at the moment). As it’s hopefully going to be my 50th title for M&B (though I don’t take anything for granted any more since the Venice book was rejected last year), I’d like it to be something special.

Which is where the third book comes in (or is that #4, as I’m sort of thinking about the follow-up Med I mentioned above?). This one is set in my birth county. (Glamorous? Essex? Actually, yes, because we’re not talking about the media view of the county.)

Planning the book is the stage I like best, when everything is possible and fluid and I can just go with my imagination, be totally wild and then rein it back to something approaching, um, ‘normal’. But I like the wild stuff. At the moment I’m thinking wolves and Boudicca. (I know, I know. If I ring my ed and tell her, she will laugh – but the expression on her face will say ‘that’s going the same way as the reindeer and the elephants, so be kind to yourself and don’t do it’. I might be 100 miles away and not be able to see her face, but I’ve had that conversation face to face enough times to know That Look!)

And so then I went to the library to do some research, and met my friend Kate for lunch. She’s up for the Joan Hessayon Award next Wednesday, so I have my fingers firmly crossed for her. (Oh, lunch? Salmon fishcakes and salad in M&S Kitchen. And we're eating Italian tonight.)

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rome, day 8 - San Clemente, Santa Pudenziana and Santa Prassede

We headed straight down the road until we reached San Giovanni in Laterano. The obelisk in front is the oldest and largest in Rome (15th century BC), brought here by Constantine originally for the Circus Maximus but moved to its present location by Pope Sixtus V.

Then we visited San Clemente, which has a 12th-century basilica

and a gorgeous courtyard.

It's built on top of a church dating from AD 392, which was itself built on a Roman Mithraeum from the late 2nd century and some houses from just after the fire of AD 64.

Photography is not allowed. But some people were flagrantly using flash, so I took a couple without...

The Roman houses reminded me very much of Pompeii, though the doors were surprisingly tall as well as narrow. In one room, there was a spring; in another, you could hear a river rushing along - this was the one that fed the lake in frint of the Domus Aureum before Vespasian drained it. To reach them, you have to walk through the earlier church (which has some lovely frescoes) and then start walking down narrow steps.

The Mithraeum has a statue of Mithras slaying a bull.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II contains the remains of the Nymphaeum of Alexander Severus (ie a public fountain from the 3rd century which distributed water from the Acqua Claudia aqueduct).

Santa Pudenziana was built on the site of a Roman bath house.

; the mosaics in the apse are 5th century and some of the oldest Christian figurative mosaics in Rome (albeit restored).

Santa Prassede is a 9th-century church; allegedly St Prassede (Santa Pudenziana’s sister) sheltered persecuted Christians here.

She was buried in a well in the nave, marked by a red marble disc.

Pope Paschal I built the chapel of St Zeno there for his mother Theodora - the mosaics are 9th century, as are those in the apse.

Paschal's halo (far left) is rectangular, showing that when the mosaics were made he was still alive.

In St Zeno's chapel there is also a piece of the column where it's said Christ was chained when he was whipped. (Gruesome but fascinating - since the Reformation, English protestant churches don't have relics like this.)

Time for a last gelato, and then back to the hotel to meet our taxi. Driving through Rome in the rush hour was quite an experience. There don't seem to be many road markings on Roman roads - and I don't think I'd be brave enough to drive there!

At the airport, we checked in and then took the shuttle over to the departure gate, seeing a gorgeous sunset as we travelled.

The sun dropped amazingly quickly. And then it was time to fly home to England.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rome, day 7 - Trastevere

We headed towards the Tiber to the Ponte Fabricio.

The bridge was built in 62 BC, and it’s the only intact surviving Roman bridge in Rome; it connects the Campus Martius to the Isola Tiberina. There’s a legend that the island grew up over the body of the hated tyrant Tarquinius Superbus, when angry Romans threw his body into the Tiber (510 BC). Only criminals and contagiously ill people were sent to the island, but then in 293 BC there was a great plague in the city, and the Sibyl told the senate to build a temple to the Greek god of healing on the island. The foundations of the temple still lie under the basilica of San Bartoloemeo.

We crossed over the Ponte Cestio on the other side of the island, which leads to the very pretty Travestere area of the city; we were looking to visit Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is one of the oldest churches in Rome, founded in AD 222.

Allegedly the site of the church is where olive oil came up in a fountain on the day of Christ's birth. The church was rebuilt by Pope Innocent II in the mid 12th century. The mosaics on the front are 12th century.

When we visited the church was full of olive trees and people carrying olive branches, because it was Palm Sunday.

The mosaics on the upper apse are also 12th century.

Outside, there's a pretty square with a fountain.

Then we crossed the Ponte Sisto back over the Tiber - it has a hole in the middle known as "the eyeglass", and when flood water runs through it the alarm is raised. We were a bit stunned to discover that the bridge is 108m long - so the river's not far off that.

From there we walked through the Ghetto

to see the Fontana della Taratughe (16th-century, but apparently Bernini added the turtles in 1658).

Then back to the hotel to flop.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

quick catchup

Current work: playing with new idea
Listening to: Paula Cole, This Fire
Reading: Liz Fielding, Tempted by Trouble (vintage Liz – lovely heroine, tortured hero, wonderful secondaries (including the ice cream van, who definitely has a personality), dialogue I wish I’d written – oh, just go and read it. And be warned, you will have ice cream cravings…)

While I’ve been working frantically on my revisions (let’s just say that moving chapter 12 to chapter 3 means that the secrets are no longer secrets and that has an enormous knock-on effect - things have to be unravelled, removed, reknitted, and hopefully the joins smoothed over), I’ve been boring you all with Rome. There are still two more days of Rome posts to come ;o) But I thought I should do a quick catch-up. What have I been doing?

Revisions. Painting my nails pearlescent teal while I thought about revisions. (OK. Having a 'back to my student days' moment.) Revisions. Cancelling lunch with a friend so I could have more work time (all these bank holidays have been seriously bad for productivity). Revisions. Oh, and revisions.

But we did have a nice weekend. Went to see ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ at the Theatre Royal in Norwich on Saturday night; son and husband loved it, but daughter didn’t – probably because she was a little too young to get most of the jokes. We had a look through the brochure and there are some great shows coming up. As son’s drama choices are too heavy for daughter, and daughter’s choices elicted a ‘no way’ grunt from son (and husband), it seems I will be taking them separately. (Rubs hands together at thought of lots of theatre trips.) Then on Sunday it was my bestest cousin’s birthday party, and it was nice to catch up with some of the family I only normally get to see at weddings.

Today, I’m over at the Pink Heart Society with my deadline recipe. (We’ve eaten a version of that rather a lot for the last week.)

Plans for this week: tidy office (unless I can work out how to avoid it), start new book (once ed has given me the green light on the last tweaks to the outline), and most definitely increase the amount of exercise I’ve been doing. And, as a certain furry beast spent this morning making the children laugh because he was REALLY staring at me while I was eating my breakfast, following the movement of the spoon and looking hopeful (er, dog – do you really think I made oatmeal with soya milk, flaxseed and a handful of fresh blueberries and raspberries for you?), I think he can jolly well accompany me!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Rome, day 7 - Circus Maximus and Santa Maria in Cosmedin

We walked down to the Circus Maximus, and on the way we noticed the odd Roman legion wandering around.

It turned out there was a re-enactment going on, so when we reached the Circus we saw patricians and lots of soldiers.

The Circus Maximus was the first – and largest – chariot racing stadium in Rome, apparently set up by the Etruscan kings of Rome. In its heyday it could seat up to 400,000 people to watch the chariot racing; the last recorded use was AD 549.

In the centre, there’s the spina (raised area to separate the tracks - that's the wider green bit between the two worn bits below) and various statues and obelisks were set upon it.

Then we went to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

The church has the Bocca della Verità in its porch – this is the face of the sea god Oceanus, used by the Romans as a drain cover but in medieval times you put your hand in its mouth to show that you were telling the truth (liars' hands would be swallowed).

Inside, the church is beautiful. Apparently the altar is a pink Roman bathtub, but there was a service going on (with gorgeous singing) so we didn't want to disturb anyone.

So we went into the sacristy to see the 8th-century mosaic of the Adoration of the Magi from the original Greek church on the site.

The temple of Vesta opposite the church dates from the 2nd century BC. It's actually the Temple of Hercules Victor, and is the oldest surviving marble structure in Rome. This area of the city used to be the cattle market, aka the Forum Boarium.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Rome, day 6 - Borghese Park

We decided to have a flop day and headed for the Borghese Park. Took the quick route straight down the hill from Santa Maria Maggiore to Trinità, taking in the Quattro Fontane on the way.

The four fountains are located at the Quirinale crossroads and were commissioned by Pope Sixtus V. They represent:

The River Arno – the symbol of Florence.

The River Tiber – the symbol of Rome.

The goddess Diana – the symbol of chastity.

The goddess Juno – the symbol of strength.

Further down the hill. we passed the Palazzo Barberini.

It was built in the early 17th century (Bernini again, with Borromini) and is an art gallery (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica) so unfortunately I didn’t get to visit it… But it’s a gorgeous building and I really liked the gates.

The park is Rome's largest open space; it was originally laid out 1613-6 as the grounds for the Borghese family's summer home but was redesigned in the 18th century. The park was busy but blissfully quiet - no traffic! The Villa Medici (now the French Academy) is on the corner; Galileo was imprisoned here in the 1630s for saying that the earth revolved around the sun. There are gorgeous views over the city from this spot.

The lilacs were all in bloom.

And this pool looked really inviting...

And there was even a replica of the Globe Theatre there.

In the park, there were people on Segways and also on 2- or 4-person bike carts (known as Riscio or Riscio max). Squeaks from i ragazzi, so we hired one for an hour.

The brakes and steering were on the driver's side (left) at the front, but there was also a steering wheel on the passenger's side. Negotiating an Italian roundabout (with buses and a road train) was, um, interesting. And I turned out to be a major back-seat driver – cue much ribbing and exasperated mutterings of, ‘Your steering wheel doesn’t work, so will you please STOP trying to steer?’

We spied a lovely fountain – the Fontana dei Cavalli Marini, dating from 1791.

And we liked this little temple, too.

We had a snack (aka pizza bought from one of the stalls), then walked back to Trinità, where the children had their portrait drawn by one of the artists. (Yes, that is indeed a picture of Antonio Banderas next to my daughter.)

We stopped for a late lunch, then spied a Pandora stockist - how could I resist a bead in the shape of my favourite building in Rome? And then we spotted a road sign that rather amused us...