Travelling, but is staying at home*

*Well apart from our permitted hour of outdoor exercise*.*

So with plenty of time on my hands I’ve been looking back at some photos from our trip to Europe in the Autumn.     I last posted in November. Back then my main worry was the effect Brexit would have on future trips.  And I was sad that it might not be easy to travel around Europe in the same way again…..

France.   And DogStarke

How things change.  At the beginning of March I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh.  MrS was busy with som e research at the Archives. I had fun, meeting a couple of friends for lunch, spending time  with Master S.,  and treating myself to a new phone.

Then the world began to shrink.

Mid March I had a hair appointment, we were being discouraged from too much contact and large gatherings had been banned so  I rang ahead to check my stylist was still happy to see me.  As I sat in foils under the heater my phone beeped with notifications.  Business after business announcing their closure, pubs,  restaurants, small shops.  The cinema had closed the day before. By the end of that week we had Covid locally and pretty much went into lockdown,  lots of my friends went into shielding isolation. Lockdown became official policy the following week.

Spain and DogS again

Our days changed.  Normally I walk to our local shop while  MrS takes DogS for  her walk.  But I’ve cut those trips down to once a week and  instead we go out for our hour of exercise together. We have a route that avoids livestock*** (completely) and people (mostly) and gives DogS a chance to walk off lead.  After that we’re home where MrS has been working in the garden, aided or otherwise by DogS. I’ve been catching up on reading, trying to write, and failing in my attempts to draw trees****  We do a weekly trip to town***** to go to the supermarket  or Food Hub.

Portugal, an apposite caricature we saw there, and you know who.

It’s hard not to see friends, difficult not to go out on a sunny evening and scary to hear the news each night.   But I’m lucky, I have a house,  garden and live in a beautiful part of the world.   Tonight there was some good news, a relaxation of restrictions in Austria, a slowing of the pandemic in Spain, and a downward trend in Italy;  but still too much grim news.

views from our walks*****,* my attempts with pencils, and DogS


What will life be like after?  Different,  probably for quite a while.  Relaxation of restrictions will be gradual and perhaps not the same everywhere.  Many businesses won’t have survived to reopen. There will be hardship and recession.

And too many people missing their family and friends.



Here’s hoping that even though things change, so the good things stay the same.


And looking forward to being with friends again.


Marina x




**permitted at time of writing,  and hoping it continues.

***although we are rural we can’t walk in the fields as it’s lambing/calving season

**** you might imagine I’ve never seen an actual tree

***** it’s about 12 miles to our nearest town

****** we’ve been doing much the same circular walk most days, but in different directions.


I’ve walked at some pivotal points my life. When I first moved to Edinburgh my Saturday afternoons were often spent walking, exploring the pages of my street map.  Yes I was really living the wild student life.  I noticed that the houses preening from the hillside beyond Morningside road reminded me of home. Even though those ones were large detacheds in Fairmilehead rather than small terraces clinging on the valley.  I plodded about the town,  plotting my routes in coloured inks,  searching in vain for Haymarket Ice Rink;  that book was out of date several years before I found it.   It paid off though, I got to know my adopted city beyond the student and tourist hubs.

It’s Edinburgh Jim, but not as you know it


Walking.  Displacement activity,  filling up the day before the  5pm Finals posting   or later walking the night away through  a break up and  I just had to be away from the house.

Walking can be sociable, even when I’m on my own, my (almost) daily walk takes me past friends and gives me a chance to catch up on news. And walking with DogS never fails to make me smile.


And who could resist that smile?

We have a local walking group too where people and dogs can socialise and explore.

Even if sometimes our feet get so wet there’s no point avoiding the puddles! (The walk which went with the snowy photo).   Walking helps me think, plan, calm down when I need to.

Three different types of walks and walkers have their left footprints recently.

The first,  walking as art  Alexander and Susan Maris’  The Well at the World’s End  a journey from Schiehallion to Iona passed fairly close by,  the second and third  pilgrimages but of different kinds came even closer. Charles Compton walking around the British mainland coastline* raising money for The Mental Health Foundation  arrived in the morning and then after lunch (and my own much shorter walk) the third group, actual  pilgrims walked and waded nearby.

So today, I’ve done my 10,000 steps and been standing a while so I’m giving my stripily suntanned feet a rest.

Marina x



*including islands linked  by bridges or non tidal causeways




I arrived home after my walk today to a missed call on my mobile and the message light blinking from the landline. Looking up the number I recognised it belonged to MrS’s cousin. Oh that’s nice I thought, she must be coming to visit her friend and wants to  drop in on her way.

And so we listened to the message.

She’s dead.

I can’t really take it in. Whilst she was (so hard to write) in her seventies, retired,  a grandmother she was by no means old. And not ill. She was always full of life, walking travelling, keeping up with family and friends.  Both her parents lived into their nineties.

Now she’s gone.

It’ll be worse for MrS;  the cousins are the senior generation of his family. A chain of births stretching from the ’40s to the ’60s.  And now a link is gone.

We’ll talk about it later no doubt.  Remember.

But for now there is just shock.

And sadness.



When I was a little girl I loved watching weddings. We lived just along the street from the church so had a good view of any that took place. It was the custom to stand and watch the bridal party arrive, sometimes there would be a “scramble” for pennies. I wasn’t too bothered about these; I wanted to be the bridesmaid. These days there’s lots of talk about brides and how it’s the dream of so many little girls. To be honest I either didn’t look that far ahead or wasn’t particularly bothered. It was the bridesmaid I identified with. They wore full, shiny frocks. We  had one in the house, yellow satin with a matching hairband from when my big sister had been a bridesmaid. I don’t think it ever fitted me, not after the time I become aware of it anyway. My sister had only been five when she wore it;  she was a dainty child, I’ve always been…sturdy.

The problem was we didn’t have any relatives of the right age. My sister had been bridesmaid for our youngest cousin on our Dad’s side (and she was a good 20+ years older than us) and on our Mum’s side we were all fairly close in age, so no one was old enough to get married.

And so I waited..

At last, happy days, our eldest cousin’s son got engaged and I was asked to be bridesmaid.  But still no shiny frock, I wore a floral cotton.

Jump forward eight years and I’m a bridesmaid again. This time for my sister. And this time I’m delighted to be wearing a cotton frock, blue/white stripes, Laura Ashley, see a snippet above. I still have it but there’s no chance of fitting into it now. It has some 80s features, full skirt, puffy sleeves but I think it would still look pretty on a bridesmaid. The Glamourpuss (sister) with her impeccable  taste eschewed all vestiges of 80s meringue and wore a gorgeous Edwardian inspired, lacy David Fielden dress which would look equally timeless today.

For my own wedding two years later I wore a deep cream Venetian lace and silk dress. I still have that dress too, but not the husband.

Eleven years ago we became Mr&MrsStarke, and I wore a black, silk MaxMara dress which has had several subsequent outings. Finally, my lovely shiny frock, with its swooshy full skirt.

And lovely MrS too.

I’ve realised I was meant to be writing about weddings and it’s turned out to be all about the frocks. But I like the parties too.

I’ve been to some lovely ones. A village hall in November, decorated with berries and autumn foliage;  the electricity failed and we danced by candlelight. The party where the bride played along with the band, the time in  the Philippines when we danced under the stars.


Why am I thinking about weddings today?

Recently MasterS was Best Man for his friend*



Last weekend MrS and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary


One of those couples mentioned welcomed their beautiful baby this week.

And tonight we have another couple to toast.**

So now it’s time to go and get ready.

Marina x



*I didn’t take this photo myself

**I stood outside to watch the bride arrive today.

Zebra crossings

You know, the non automated crossings, heralded by Belisha beacons (as seen above but with a usually less watery setting). Often staffed by cheery men and women in Hi-Vis raincoats. Perhaps you don’t have them where you live?  I like them because they give back power to the pedestrian. If someone is waiting, the car is obliged to stop.

But…. This should have been a travel post. About Zambia, or Zanzibar, or maybe Zaragoza. The only problem is, I’ve not been there. I don’t even know very much about them. Perhaps they should be on my “wish” NOT “bucket” list (I absolutely hate that term).

And there’s another problem, where to next? The alphabet has 26 letters and this is the last but #Blogtober has another 6 days to run.

I had hoped that I could use the extra letters from the Welsh alphabet. And then I checked. There are eight of them: Ch, Dd, Ff, Ll, Ng, Ph, Rh and Th. And not being a Welsh speaker I was struggling to find things I liked*. It was all a bit too contrived.

I’m still working on it. There will be a post tomorrow. Perhaps not a theme though.

And I’ve just remembered a Z  place I’ve visited and liked.


Only problem is, my trip wasn’t even this century. I did find some photos though, old style non digital ones in albums, so I’ve taken photos of them.

And like so many of my photos, there is cake.**


Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Marina x


*Lyfrau – books

**and a very young MasterS.





My “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”, and it is dear to me. It’s where I was born and spent my childhood, and it’s where most of my family still live.

I don’t get back as often as I’d like, but when I do I have a great time.  As well as family visits I try to tour about. Sometimes revisiting childhood favourites, other times searching out places we never got around to visiting  back then.

It’s curious when you go back. Memories are tricksy and places can be not quite how they live in your mind. Then there’s the size conundrum, places which seemed huge to a child have now shrunk.

And then some places simply are different.

The village I grew up in was an industrial one, though surrounded by wooded hills. At the base of the valley were the coal mines. They closed in the 1990s , and you have to look hard to find any trace of them today. The “red”river,  now runs clear and is home to fish.

One thing which hasn’t changed is the coastline. It’s as beautiful and enticing as it was back then. Those days , when we jostled over who would be first to shout,  “I can see the sea!!!”.

It’s even better these days as you can walk all along it on the Wales Coast Path.


I learned to swim in the seas off that coast, Porthcawl, Mumbles, Langland Bay, and my favourite Rhossili.  I swam every chance I had. Summer, Easter, it didn’t matter. I braved the waves; my family sat on deckchairs wrapped in layers.I had my own layers, of fat to keep me warm. but also I didn’t care. I had to be in that sea.

Lately I’ve just paddled or walk along those beaches. But never say never.

Ah. One other thing has changed. We weren’t so good at football back then.


Things that change, things that stay the same.


A welcome in the valleys. When I go home to Wales.

Marina x





Not the 1980 song , though I did like that very much back in the day. (And still do if I’m honest). No, the city.  But once again this post will be dredging up memories, if not from my teens, but from my thirties. Eek!

Actually I was only *just* still in my thirties, I think I celebrated my 40th birthday right after we returned.

And a disclaimer, that coffee  above was enjoyed much closer to home.  I have no photos of that trip. I know I must that some momentos but I think they must be in the trunk which is currently in the inaccessible part of the house. But I thought some coffee would be appropriate.

So I  will have to try and paint a picture with words.

I can’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed in  but do remember it was out near the UN building. A quick search suggests it what is now the NH Danube City. All I can remember is that it was near the UN and the Danube. The Danube, which was certainly  a mighty river,  but equally certainly not blue; it was green.

It was a work trip for MrS* and he had been in the city a few days ahead of me. The night I arrived the cultural programme included an organ recital at St Stephen’s Cathedral. We headed out to this but dismayed by the length of the queue opted out and enjoyed a sociable evening with some lovely colleagues in a bierkellar.

The other thing I remember of that evening was that I wore a beautiful pair of Moschino mules. They were back and cream leather with a punched out design (like on brogues), a cute little bow and kitten heels. They were also  a half size too small for me. They hurt even when sitting down. I think that was the only time I wore them, although they only found their way to a charity shop three years ago. Maybe I thought my feet would shrink if I washed them enough?

MrS was busy every day and probably would struggle to describe Vienna apart from the inside of the congress centre.  Me?  I had a combined transport and museum card and had a  super time.

I rode the tram right around the Ringstrasse, ate bratwurst, drank more coffee and cake than you would think humanly possible and gorged on galleries. I visited Sissi’s flower strewn tomb in the Kaisergruft, marvelled at the modernity of the Frankfurt kitchen in the   MAK and discovered those Klein blues at Mumok.


I paid my respects at the  Silent Library


The finale of the congress was a ball at the Rathaus. The Vienna Opera dancers delighted us with their carefully choreographed Viennese Waltzes. And then MrS and I tore up the floor  with our rather more improvised moves.

I swam in the Danube and saw but failed to ride the Reisenrad.

Still it’s always nice to leave something for the next visit.

And maybe then I’ll take some photos too.


the only bit of Vienna memorabilia I could lay my hands on

Marina x


*He was strictly speaking not MrS until the following year