Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Monday, July 06, 2009

Marmite summer

Well, we are officially empty-nesters now! Youngest has gone off, with another First Class degree, to seek her fortune in London (are the streets paved with gold in Shoreditch?) We haven't had long to miss her since we left for Siena a week later.

My editor from Frances Lincoln came for lunch and we went through the last of the art for The Great Big Book of Families. we've got publishers in the US, Denmark, Finland and Germany already, with more to come.

The day before we left I went back up to town for the Carnegie/Greenaway announcement party, which I blogged about on

And then we were off, leaving the house to oldest daughter and nine friends! We got to Santa Chiara just in time to go out for dinner with middle daughter and partner, who had come to join us after a week in Rome. So lovely to be back in the Italian city that, with Florence, most feels like home.We did serious Palio work all week, with the TV, Internet, daily purchases of Il Corriere di Siena,text updates and of course seeing some things live in the Campo, including the race itself!

I was so nervous that it would be postponed a day because of thunderstorms (which we had pretty much every day) since I was leaving on the morning of the following day. The nervousness was enhanced by being given a free ticket to see it from a stand in the campo.

And indeed the day before, when we went to the open air dinner in our contrada, we sat down to it two hours late, because of storms.

But it all worked out in the end. Not for Civettra (=Owl) whose horse had to be scratched because of injury the night before the race, or for us, in that Montone didn't win. But a part of me will always be in the Campo watching the Corteo Storico go by and hearing the wonderfully Charles Ives effect of the campanile bell tolling against the drumming of each comparsa and the brass band playing the Palio march!

The Blessing of the horse in the early afternoon is still the best bit for me.

When we weren't Palio-ing, we had hot hours by the pool and swimming. I read John Grisham's latest effort, The Appeal, which was quite poor. The baddies won! And, since one doesn't read him for style or profound insights that was disappointing, to say the least. 500 pages and the good guys got shafted.

But I also started and am still reading Pascal Mercier's wonderful Last Train to Lisbon, bought on a hunch. This is the real stuff.

Two days after we returned I saw the Federer/Roddick final. What an indulgence, to spend ALL Sunday afternoon on! But we were away in Siena last year for the other 5-set final, when Federer lost to Nadal so I felt I'd sort of earned it.

The first copy of Troubadour has arrived!

And this week I'm editing City of Ships.

I got only three mosquito bites in Italy, so I think the Marmite-eating as repellent is working! We'll see when I go to Athens in September; that will be a good test.

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