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Are you a ‘morning’ person? I am, and mornings for me can be anything from four a.m. to seven a.m. Although now I’ve stopped drinking alcohol, the four a.m.’s are getting fewer.
I first came across morning pages when given a reading list for a week’s writer’s retreat in Tuscany at The Watermill. Jo Parfitt was our tutor and she recommended Julia Cameron’s book. The Artist’s Way as preparatory reading. The week focused on memoir writing and was my treat for myself after giving up The Woolly Pedlar. I’ve always had Tuscany on my bucket list, and this wonderful week in glorious sunshine and surroundings, with beautiful people and fabulous food at The Watermill certainly hit the spot.  I am working on my memoir, and it is taking me to some very far flung places in my life, with deeply buried memories, but more of that later.

Writing on the Vine Terrace at The Watermill, Tuscany
Writing on the Vine Terrace at The Watermill, Tuscany

Julia Cameron recommends you write three sides, it must be three, straight from sleep. You are to write whatever comes into your head, keep the pen moving, without pausing to correct grammar or spelling. It is also recommended that you use exercise books, and not do anything with the writing, even binning it. This is where Julia and I differ in our practice.

Morning Pages, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Morning Pages, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I do write stream of consciousness thoughts, allowing whatever is in my head to go on the page, but I do reserve the right to use some of my scribbling as writing prompts to be developed further in my daily writing practice. I allow myself a trip to the loo, but then get back into bed, bring a pillow on my lap to raise the height and begin to write, anything, allowing my thoughts to flow. I write down dreams I have just had and reminisce about memories. I always stop at the bottom of the third page, and sometimes scribble as a footer ‘to be continued…’.  That idea then goes in a list at the back of the journal to remind me to expand on the memory or idea later.

Journal Writing
Journal Writing

As a writer, I am often gifted journals and notebooks, and over the years have amassed quite a collection. This Christmas was no exception, with a beautiful journal and pen from my sister-in-law. I love a new journal and have a passion for leather clad Leuchtturms. (Apologies if Lederhosen wearing, thigh slapping men have now entered your head.) I’ve just uncovered a stash of journals going back to when I was 17 in the attic, they make for both interesting and painful reading. I do love to keep a journal and am surprised at some of the detail I’ve forgotten. As a writer, we are told that detail brings our stories alive and makes them readable, and the best detail comes from your own life experience.

We’ve just had a full moon, the Wolf Moon, and this one was no exception, keeping me awake with thoughts racing. I headed to the spare room and at 4am started writing. It was powerful, and a whole barrow load of emotions came pouring out. I drew the line at going into the garden to howl at the moon, though was tempted.

Wolf Moon Writing
Wolf Moon Writing

Morning pages are my meditation. Do you keep a journal or write morning pages? Feel free to leave a comment or engage with the chat on social media. Follow Sue Reed Writes on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.


Read about my Tuscan retreat at The Watermill in:

Finding my Plot

Finding My Plot
Finding My Plot

A Ripping Yarn

A Ripping Yarn
A Ripping Yarn

The Salami Boys of Fivizzano

Fivizzano market Tuscany
Fivizzano market Tuscany

I had bought myself a lovely, light, cotton dress for my holiday from a stall in Hexham market. I was fond of this dress and received a few compliments on it from my fellow writers, whilst on a writing retreat at The Watermill in Tuscany. It hadn’t been an expensive purchase, but I loved its coolness and ease of wear. It had two layers with a cool white sleeveless dress sitting underneath a khaki capped-sleeve outer layer. I’d worn it with my Audrey Hepburn hat when visiting the beautiful hilltop town of Verrucola earlier that week.

Our final day at The Watermill was hot, really hot, and I thought this would be the ideal dress to wear for our gourmet lunch at the hilltop restaurant at Monte dei Bianchi. I had changed out of a sundress, as I felt some form of sleeves were called for, this being a posh restaurant.

On arrival the views were stunning, and I set about taking photos. However, I was soon stopped in my tracks when Maggie, a fellow writer, came up to say that my backside was hanging out of my dress. It would seem that on getting in the minibus it had ripped, not just through one layer, but through both, and my flesh coloured big pants (you know, the sort with legs you wear to stop your legs chaffing) were now showing at the back.

Horrified, I grabbed the back of the dress, holding it together and waddled towards the cover of the terrace. It would seem the proprietor had also noticed, as in Italian she offered for me to come inside and she’d sew it up. I told her in English that there was no need, I could sew, and I hurried off to the bathroom, needle and thread in hand. I grabbed a glass of wine on my way – I needed fortification!

I took the offending garment off and stood in my bra and pants – not matching, and not a pretty sight, to sew up the dress. A quick couple of lines of tacking later and I was fit to be seen in public again.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal in great company, and after coffee got ready to go. I nipped quickly to the bathroom before we set off, and to my horror I realised that I’d stripped and sewn my dress in the ‘Signori’ not the ‘Signora’ bathroom. It could only happen to me!

I was very happy to be visiting the market at Fivizzano, as it gave the chance to buy presents to take home to the family. I was hoping to find some of the delicious ‘bresaola’ we were served for dinner as antipasti back at The Watermill the previous night. I walked past several stalls of tempting linen clothing, where some of our group, now renamed by me as the ‘Linen Ladies of Lunigiana’, came away with bags of cool, colourful summer frocks. Over on the far side of the square, I found ‘The Salumi della Tana’ stall, run by what appeared to be three brothers. Maybe they weren’t brothers at all, but I liked to think they were, and feel it adds something to my story.

What is it about Italian men that makes them so darn good looking? As I write this, I realise I didn’t take any photos of the guys in question. I was far too shy for that! You will have to rely on my description and story to build up a picture in your own mind’s eye.

The three brothers were stood behind the counter of their smart trailer in ascending ages, from the shy, skinny youngster, to the more confident tanned and muscular older brothers. I do doubt their blood relationship to each other as one had deep dark brown eyes, and the other, eyes of piercing blue. Tight t-shirts and tight jeans added to the allure, and smiles that twinkled and made this old lady quite flustered!

Salamis of varying widths and lengths hung from the ceiling of the van. Whilst on the counter, cheeses, hard skinned and soft, full moons and half-moons, some with Tom and Jerry like holes, mature and ripe were tempting my taste buds. Cured meats, and a sign advertising the bresaola which was on offer, sent me scurrying for my phone to look up the Italian I needed. I was not going to speak English, that was one thing I was sure of!

With the help of Google translate, I looked up how to say two hundred and fifty grammes, and stood back nervously, feeling so much the tourist, while I practiced the phrase over and over in my head. I listened as the sound of Italian being spoken by the locals rang out, voices rising and falling with such a fast tempo that was impossible to understand, but with a musical, melodic sound. I wished I’d worked harder on my Duolingo, but had got frustrated with it. After all, when would you need to say that the man was in the sugar for goodness sake?

It was my turn, and the guy with the piercing blue eyes was looking right at me. ‘Si?’ he said with a smile that lit up his whole face, then said something I didn’t understand. I smiled back, a little flirtatiously if I admit, and stammered: ‘ duecentocinquanta grammes de bresaola, per favour.’ My man smiled again, repeated what I’d said and went off to slice the meat. I’d done it! He understood!

‘Gracie’ I say, and he then hands me a slither of cheese to try. I pop the creamy morsel into my mouth ‘Moy buen’ I say. Bugger! I curse under my breath, that was Spanish! There’s me trying to look all cool, sophisticated and Italian! A quick fumble with my phone and with the help of Google translate, I say ‘Molte buono!’ Phew!

Now for the dried porcini mushrooms and some cheese. Trouble is, I didn’t have time to look up any other numbers, so you guessed it, I got ‘duecentocinquanta grammes’ of cheese and mushrooms. I did manage to ask for ‘Pecorini viejo’ (mature Pecorino) but only as I’d overheard him say it before. I did, however, get rather a lot of mushrooms for two hundred and fifty grammes! Back in the Bronzino bedroom, these needed to be double wrapped as they had rather a pungent pong. Fortunately, there was a fridge in the communal kitchen at the Watermill where I could keep my meat and cheese.

These were to be presents for the family, and along with a jar of locally made pesto, and a bag of pasta, I had the makings of an Italian meal that would remind me of my wonderful stay in Italy, but more importantly, of the men from the Salumi Della Tana in Fivizzano.

I said my ‘arrive dercis’ and turned away from the stall. I looked up as the ancient bell tower rang out the hour, and I felt the hot sun hit my face from a cloudless cobalt blue sky. Oh, if only shopping in Hexham market was this good!