During a pandemic, and after a very long wait

Instagram: mary.in.italy

Two years ago, my boyfriend and I decided we were going to buy a house in Italy. Well, actually, we decided we were going to build a house in Italy, but quickly realised that our budget would afford us a rather nice garden shed and decided to look for something pre-existing instead.

We house hunted for quite a while before we found the perfect match: a two-storey farmer’s residence on the outskirts of the city where he grew up. We managed to view the house a couple of times last summer, despite the pandemic, and the keys were in our…

Cars, renovations and impractical mini-breaks

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After a bank-holiday hiatus I am back and worse than ever. Welcome.

I spent the weekend itself eating and drinking far too much and making every attempt possible not to catch hypothermia. On Monday, I stared at the rain as it smacked against the window and wondered what the point was.

Today, our car got recalled for a software update that, if left uninstalled, would cause the engine to catch fire and kill everyone within a five-mile radius. That’s what the guy on the phone said, anyway. I’m not sure.

Anyway, I drove over to…

Underpants and books

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He passed! Twenty-four questions about viking invasions and he bloody well passed it. I bought him some hilarious union jack underpants as a reward but apparently they ‘don’t fit’.

[If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s all here]

We celebrated by going to Nam, a Vietnamese restaurant in Ancoats. It was freezing. You know the kind of cold that makes your fingers seize up? I could barely pick up my spring rolls. I had my little heated foot warmers on though, and the food was incredible, so that helped. We had pork bao, banh mi, curry and…

Suburban life gets wild

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Only four days in and I’ve missed my deadline. I am sorry, but I do have a good reason: I overslept. If you were wondering why I’m no longer traditionally employed, you can stop now.

Anyway, I took my shiny lip-balmed eyebrows to Sainsbury’s and bought bacon, wine and dog treats. The woman at the till didn’t ID me for the wine, which was shocking and upsetting. It’s only a decade since I was 18; how dare she?

I was on my way back home, cruising in the sunshine listening to Taylor Swift, when my mum…

Breaking news — my life is over

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I’ll begin today with an update on yesterday’s story about the dog-poo lady. Honestly, I am mortified. I’m going to have to go into hiding. OK, here we go.

So my mum walked Nora down to the postbox in the rain. Standard stuff. It’s a busy road, and she’s trying to get Nora used to the traffic, etc. etc. And guess who she bumps into? Take a guess.

The dog-poo lady.

I’m going to stop calling her the dog-poo lady, because it really does sound awful, and she’s a really lovely person. …

Eyebrows, dog-walkers and thrills

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On Saturday, I went to my best friend Zara’s house for a barbecue. Can you believe that? A friend’s house. For a barbecue. She gave us loads of food and wine and blew my mind with a beauty hack so genius, I’m almost scared to commit it to paper.

First, some context you didn’t ask for: my eyebrows are problematic. They’re long and curly and grow in wild directions, and need trimming regularly like a poodle in the winter. I’ve tried everything to tame them — eyebrow gel, hairspray, spoolies, soap (have you heard of soap brows?) …

I’m back, on a different platform, with dramatically-increased ennui

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In March last year, during that time of our lives, I began writing my Lockdown Diary. I thought the world was ending, and employed my go-to coping strategy of writing sarcastically about the whole thing in order to survive it. Things got better, though (they didn’t get better, I just realised that this wasn’t going to end but was also unlikely to wipe out the whole of humanity) and I stopped.

And now — now! — the golden age has reportedly arrived. Boris has lifted that ‘irreversible’ pint to his lips and there is officially no going back. We’re opening…

Where to begin when you can’t even say ‘hello’

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Six years ago, I did a volunteering placement in Sri Lanka. The trip had its ups and downs, but my overwhelming feeling at the time — and now, looking back — was one of longing. Longing to travel, to know more of the world, and to speak to people whose cultures and experiences were so different to my own.

I have many formative memories of that time, but the one that stands out and returns to me again and again is this: I was sitting in a minibus, on my way to the airport to fly home, when I felt…

Aligning my passion with my finances was harder than I imagined

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I began writing the first time I picked up a pen. Outside of school hours I would scribble in diaries and notebooks, creating stories and spilling my feelings, imagining other worlds and documenting my own on pink paper gifted to me by family members every Christmas.

When I grew up I moved on to standard-issue, non-fluffy notebooks, and then keyboards and phones and tablets. The tools I used to express myself changed, but the patterns of behaviour did not. Writing, for me, was an extra-curricular activity. I didn’t study it at university, I had no formal training. …

Quitting my day job was the easy part

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In the middle of June 2020, I left my steady, dependable day job and took a punt on freelance writing as my sole source of income. I had expectations about the highs and lows I would experience; I thought work would be more erratic and less dependable, I imagined my working days would be fluid and that my writing would bleed into my weekends, changing the shape of my life and my routine.

All of it was true. But as with anything, expectation often fails to match reality, and the first three months of calling myself a ‘writer’ have brought…

Mary Hargreaves

Author writing about writing and all things Italy. www.maryhargreaves.co.uk

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