Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Mug Shot

Here's my contribution to the mug shot meme, from Meredith at Found in France.

This mug is from Montalcino in Tuscany, now weathered, slightly chipped - the soft maiolica ceramic they use doesn't stand up to children very well, or continuous use generally. This is the sole survivor of several individual mugs that I used to bring home at the end of every season working in Italy, organising walking holidays and best of all, the food. There were several towns noted for their ceramics and I had small espresso mugs from Orvieto and Siena, but there was a workshop in Montalcino that did its own variations on traditional patterns and I loved the colours and swirly pattern in this one.

At the end of each season, some of us would have the task of driving the minibuses back to England...empty. Now for several months we would have been travelling light, living out of a suitcase, moving between the trips we were working on, with no base to dump excess baggage. So we used to compile mental shopping lists as we travelled and devise a route home that took in all the places where the coveted items resided. My list usually included olive oil from Montichiello, wine - Rosso di Montalcino, the Brunello was more of an investment to be put away for a few years, so I usually went for the more immediate gratification, ceramics, sometimes even a couple of enormous terracotta pots, folding clothes airers of the sort that take a whole washing machine load, designed for European flat dwellers, which weren't then available in England, shoes from Siena, the list could be endless. All these purchases we hoped would help us over the culture shock of returning to a stationary, city-bound winter existence before spring sent us driving out again to the Italian countryside for more wonderful food and wine and perpetual motion. The minibuses would then trundle north over the Alps, up the French autoroutes and onto the cross Channel ferries, groaning under the weight of our shopping sprees.

This life suited me well in my twenties but as the big 30 loomed, a more settled existence beckoned and I used to do just a couple of trips a year. The last trip I did, I had just found out I was pregnant with our son and in those early stages of pregnancy I could hardly eat a thing. Such a waste of all those wonderful 5 course meals, that I still had to sit down to with clients every night, explaining to every restaurant that the food was lovely but the connoisseur tour manager couldn't eat it because she's expecting a baby. I wish I could have sent those meals fast forwarding in to the future - now, when they would be properly appreciated!

This mug and the clothes airer and a respectable amouont of other ceramics have now made it as far as South Africa, sadly the terracotta pots stayed behind in London.


  1. That is a beautiful picture of a lovely mug. I bought my mother a set of decorative plates in Montalcino a few years ago. They do gorgeous ceramics.

    What a life you've led! And continue to lead. So many places, so many people, so much good food!

  2. Now, that's a great mug shot story!

    I like the idea of being able to fast forward meals into the future :)

    And those terracotta pots you left behind, will you ever be able to get them back? Or have they moved onto a new life?

  3. Love that Mug! Great story behind it, too.

  4. This is a really unique mug! Very Italian! The colors are really striking. Kit you have lived a dream...I love hearing all these lovely European stories and places and roads travelled and wonderful people met and loved! Keep them coming ladies!

  5. I love the mug story. It sounds such a romantic existence, living out of a suitcase and traveling town to town with new food and faces.

  6. Some of the terracotta pots went to my parents, so have stayed in the family, others I think must have embarked on an independant life - I've no idea where they are now! I loved all the time spent in Italy - though I don't think your own life ever feels romantic while you are living it - maybe in retrospect, when the rose-tinted spectacles blur memories of minibuses stuck in ditches only hours before clients are due to arrive at Rome airport....!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!