Spotlight Sunday

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to do a Spotlight Sunday for the “We Love Memoirs” group on Facebook. This fantastically supportive group asked me some very good questions and allowed me to talk about myself all day, which was a really unusual and lovely experience. Have a read and discover a few things you did not know or had always wanted to ask. I have not edited this, just left the spelling mistakes as they were because it is very long 🙂

Good morning on Mother’s Day-well it is in the UK anyway! Our guest today is a mum and her memoir reminisces back to when her son was just over a year old and the family’s experiences sailing on their yacht. Tonia Hall(Tonia Parronchi) was born in 1963 in Chelmsford, Essex, UK and grew up in Shenfield. Tonia attained a Degree in English Literature and History. She worked for a year as an Air Hostess and then in a fashion showroom in London. She lived in England until 1990 when she moved to Italy. Tonia has always had a passion for travel and indeed she met her Italian husband Guido whilst travelling-actually in Greece. They have been living in Italy ever since. Son James came along in 1994 and Guido decided to take early retirement (he was 46 at the time) so that they could share their love of travel. They bought a 42ft Ketch. The vessel’s name was Whisper so that’s the significance of Whisper in Tonia’s memoir title. They perceived idyllic adventures sailing-of course, with a 14 month old baby in tow, it wasn’t quite as easy as they first envisaged. A WHISPER ON THE MEDITERRANEAN is Tonia’s tale of those memorable times. Later the family moved to Tuscany, to a beautiful valley that is the setting for her novel THE SONG OF THE CYPRESS. In addition, Tonia has just published a short poetry memoir with reflections and memories associated with moments of her life. So, what next for Tonia? Let’s find out now and give her a really warm welcome to our famous Hot Seat! smile emoticon Don’t forget: please don’t use the reply feature-just start a new comment each time to keep things easily visible (especially photos) and to keep things flowing nicely. Ask Tonia anything you like!

Here are the links for Tonia’s books:


POPPIES (Poetry):

Here is the link for Tonia’s website:

Here is the link for Tonia’s author page on Facebook:

Julie Haigh's photo.
Julie Haigh Good morning Tonia! Hope you enjoy your day in the Spotlight!

Tonia Hall Good morning Julie. I am really looking forward to this. I am armed with my second coffee so am wide awake and ready for questions. Thanks to you and the lovely team for organising things, dear. x

Julie Haigh Tonia, I notice you worked for a year as an Air Hostess-do you have any memories-good and/or bad that you might put in a memoir sometime?

Tonia Hall While I wait for a question I wanted to explain why I have 2 names! Italian life is so different (mother’s day here is in May and I almost forgot about my poor mum this year – yikes!) married women keep their own maiden name on all documentation so technically my surname is still Hall but I like Parronchi better so use it for my writing.

Gill Gregory Morning Tonia , hope you have a great day in the hot seat

Julie Haigh Yes, your Parronchi surname does have a nice ring to it Tonia!

Tonia Hall Thanks Gill. Julie – I worked for Britannia Airways for 1 year and had a lot of fun but I did not keep a diary of that time and unfortunately was only doing short haul flights so did not see any glamourous places or stay over in them. I did not really enjoy the job so doubt I will write about it. I was scared stiff when man had a heart attack on board. Fortunately another steward was a trained nurse and took over immediately so I was saved having to do much. My second flight ever was to Malta where I took a group of old age pensioners on holiday. The flight was incredibly bumpy and the bell rang again and again as people were sick and handed me their steaming sick-bags! As they got off at the end of the flight they all held my hand and thanked me profusely but I think I decided then that I would look for a different carreer smile emoticon

Julie Haigh I don’t know-it could work-Memoirs of a Reluctant Air Hostess-or something? grin emoticon

Julie Haigh I enjoyed reading about your anecdotes there anyway!

Julie Haigh Was an air hostess something you’d always wanted to be? For a long while? How long did you work at the fashion showroom-and do you have some juicy snippets you could write about in that career Tonia?

Tonia Hall Good title! No, I am so far away from that time in every way possible. I have just finished a second novel, which is with my agent, so keep your fingers crossed. It is a funny novel called “The Melting of Miss Angelina Snow” and has a very sad reason for being written but ended up being humorous. If anyone wants to know the background story let me know x

Julie Haigh Yes please-just put anything you like on the Spotlight thread Tonia. I’d love to know about your new book.

Tonia Hall Do you know Julie, I really did not know what I wanted to do when I was at school. The only thing I really loved was books! I sort of fell into my carreer choices. I finished uni and had no idea what to do but saw that the airline was recruiting. I was too short but applied anyway and remember stretching as tall as I could when being weighed and measured at the interview. I was told, quite crossly that my weight was fine but I was not as tall as I had claimed on the forms. I said Oh dear, really!” and looked innocent and for some reason they took me. As far as the fashion business goes, I have many memories and could certainly write a memoir about that time. It is the bitchiest business ever and light years away from the type of person I am. In fact, I lasted only a year flying because I had problems with my ears and although I worked in fashion for a lot longer, I never felt like myself there.

Julie Haigh Ooh, I do hope you write a memoir about your time in the fashion business then-sounds like it would be a great book!

Tonia Hall The background to writing “The Melting of Miss Angelina Snow” is a tragic death. Our friend Tonino (who features, with his boat, in some scenes in “A Whisper on the Med”) had a stroke or .. who knows .. and fell from his boat, which was moored on the Tevere River while he worked on it. His body was found 10 days later as it washed out to sea. I was devastated. He had been the person I had always counted on if I should ever need help and my husband were away. I could not believe that, just when he had retired and was about to sail with us in the summer and have such fun, instead he had died. So, I used his personality, his gloomy, Eyeore-type humour and cynicism as the “hero” in the book. His is the perfect foil to the icy Miss Snow and lived the life he should have done, at least in those pages.

Beth Haslam Very much looking forward to this. Thanks Julie. smile emoticon

Tonia Hall I had a friend staying with me for a few days, who I met on my airline training course 30 years ago and she is still flying – now SHE could write a memoir about her life!

Charlotte Smith Hola from Andalucia Tonia! What are the best and worst things about life in Italy? smile emoticon

Tonia Hall I have started taking notes for a memoir about my husband, Guido’s life. He has done so many things and had such fascinating experiences. He grew up in Italy just after the war, and the life lived in these Tuscan villages was so different that this alone would make a great book. Then, because he had the wanderlust from childhood, after doing military service in the parachute Corps, he set off around the world. He worked in the hotel business as a waiter and assistant manager, went to the African Congo with a French film crew where he got typhoid fever, chatted up a rich woman who took him on an all expenses paid trip around the world, worked for Alitalia Airlines as cabin crew for 24 years and in the meantime learnt to fly and sail. He has built 2 planes, a 1 seater and the one he has now, a 2-seater. I will put a photo up below. He took early retirement and that is where “Whisper” begins. I am not sure anyone would believe it was true but it is smile emoticon

Tonia Hall's photo.
Julie Haigh Wow, that sounds great Tonia-Guido has done so much! It would certainly make a great book!

Tonia Hall Hola Charlotte, Thanks for your question. If you live in Andalucia, I imagine that we have a lot in common. It is hard to answer. I love living in Italy but miss England. There are good and bad things in both places but, since I have lived almost half my life, and my adult life, here, I feel a bit of a fish-out.of-water in both places. Maybe that helps me to write about places as I have a slight detachment no matter how much I love them. Of course, mention Italy and you think of food. The food and the fresh fruit and vegetables are amazing. In “Whisper” I have added a recipe at the end of each chapter. They are all authentic recipes that are easy to make. If I could make them on a constantly moving boat, anyone can. You cannot live here without becoming a foodie. I love the countryside (but not in summer as it is too hot and I spend the summer months looking like a boiled lobster). I hate the politicians and the way bureacracy here halts any initiative. I do not think that applies only to Italy though. I really hate having to queue here. No one queues. You go to the post office and shout out “who is the last one?” while everyone mingles around, chats, argues and generally causes chaos instead of just forming a good old, British Queue 

Tonia Hall Talking of food, Sunday lunch here is, of course, sacred, so I am off to peel potatoes and get the sage from the garden for the pork and then I will be back. No matter how many potatoes I roast my men always say I have not done enough. Anyone else have potato addicts?

Veronica Moore Hey Tonia, I grew up in Shenfield too, lived in Shorter Avenue and went to Shenfield Tech!

Charlotte Smith Tonia – I’m laughing here over your description of Italian queuing. It sounds so familiar! I am loving the sound of your Italian recipes in Whisper, so I shall just trot off and buy that. grin emoticon

Tonia Hall Hi Veronica – what a surprise! I lived in Woodland Avenue and also went to Shenfield school smile emoticon Do you still live there?

Charlotte Smith The Spanish also love to chat in the middle of the road. Cars? What cars? I kind of love it (as long as I’m not in a tearing hurry).

Tonia Hall I know!!! We would have a giggle exchanging stories, honey:)

Tonia Hall Charlotte, I should imagine there are many similarities between Italy and Spain. Another thing I hate about Italian life is how everything closes from 1pm to 4pm. Not just shops but also museums and art galleries. Things are beginning to change thank goodness but last year when we spent 8 months in Bath, UK, I got used to popping along to M&S whenever I wanted and now I am back here it is irritating me like mad 

Charlotte Smith Tonia. I think we also share a love of poppies. This is our little casita last spring. The first poppy this year appeared yesterday.

Charlotte Smith's photo.
Veronica Moore No Tonia, when I married there was no way we could afford to buy a house there! After several moves around Chelmsford/ Colchester we now live in Bucks, but my two sisters still live in the Chelmsford area.

Tonia Hall Oh Charlotte, how lovely! thank you smile emoticon Your house looks so sweet and I do love poppies. I called my poetry memoir Poppies because of their fragile beauty but also for their amazing propeties of endurance, as they return year after year to brighten our lives. Mine are not out yet. I have some amazing ones which are actually opium poppies, very tall and extremely noticable! They were a gift from my mum one year and she had no idea how her crop of innocent-looking seeds would cause raised eyebrows here. Her garden is enclosed but mine reveals my crop of scandolous beauties for all to admire. I try that innocent look again if anyone enquires. My poetry book is a kind of memoir as it explains how the poems came about, the reasons behind them. Here is the snippet from the book explaining about my love of these ethereal flowers and the poem itself. ” I had a thought the other morning, whilst pondering the transient nature of life, which pleased me enormously. I realised that while the highs and lows of emotions come to visit; some for a fleeting second, others stop and chat for a while and some are like unwelcome guests that are hard to get rid of; my underlying feeling, my base emotion if you like, is contentment. This seems to me to be a wonderful thing.
The last poem that I want to share here is one of my most recent ones. I had picked some of the huge pink poppies that I grew from seeds my Mum gave me. Mum loves poppies. She has poppy mugs and curtains, poppies on her blouse. Of course the poppy is also a symbol of remembrance and has connotations of opium-blurred reality, so its fragile beauty has an innate poignancy and depth of meaning.
I had a poppy in a vase and when I woke in the morning I admired it anew and was surprised that it had lasted so long. I turned my back for an instant and when I looked again, below the vase lay one perfect petal. What a precious image. One soft, pink curl on a wooden shelf gazing up at the rest of the bloom. It said it all – how nothing lasts forever, how beautiful life is and how important silence is in our lives. We need those precious moments of silence to just be, to let life happen, to meditate on our inner truths.

How Silently the Petal Falls

Silent, the first look of love
and our deepest grief.
Rejoice, in simple contemplation
the perfect, aching space.
How silently the petal falls.

Patricia Steele I love this very much, Tonia

Tonia Hall Thank you so much Patricia.

Tonia Hall Veronica, I know, property is so expensive there now, isn’t it. Buckinghamshire is lovely though! My Brother lives in Chelmsford and my darling parents have just moved back there to be closer to him. They have some big health problems – Dad with AlzheiSee more

Tonia Hall I thought I would put the link here to a book trailer for “Whisper” which my son James did for me. He is the cute toddler in the photos but is now 21 and huge with a black beard! where did the years go? As Julie said in the introduction, “Whisper” was the name we wanted for the boat. We sold her and bought Euriklea, who I adored. She was like a smile in the water smile emoticon We sold her too a few years ago, but only because Guido is looking for a slightly bigger boat so that he can take me away and give me stories to write about for a future memoir “Whispering Around the World” or “Caribbean Whispers” maybe?! I will post a photo of the first boat below.

Tonia Hall's photo.
Julie Haigh I love your trailer Tonia-some lovely photos on there as well.

Tonia Hall Off to make that lunch now before my men complain that I am ignoring them smile emoticon see you all shortly x

Yvonne Kilat Hi Tonia & everyone. Happy Mums Day to those from the UK. I can’t stay long today. I’ve just started reading A Whisper In The Mediterranean but husband and I are traveling again, locally, so will continue reading later. Have a wonderful SS Tonia.

Margaret Hobbs I am really enjoying reading the posts on here , I also love poppies and live in Spain but not in the countryside like Charlotte Smith, although we do still have lovely natural parks and lakes with flamingos and fantastic weather .I am looking forward to reading A whisper on the Mediterranean, it is on my kindle now .

Tonia Hall Hi Yvonne and Margaret. Thanks so much for your comments.Yvonne, I really hope you will enjoy the book. Try the recipes – the secret about Italian food is that it really is … SO simple! You need fresh ingredients, good olive oil and pasta. My friend, who was staying with me recently, hates garlic, so we had 3 garlic free days BUT, my men were complaining so the roast today is liberally sprinkled with garlic cloves and we are all happy smile emoticon

Julie Haigh Tonia, how did you meet your husband? I realise it was in Greece but noticed he worked for an airline too and wondered was it a working stopover for both of you-did you work for the different airlines at the same times? Or on a holiday to Greece?

Tonia Hall Margaret I am glad you are enjoying the posts. Where in Spain do you live? I saw lots of Flamingos in Sardegna when I was there and they are so beautiful. Makes me think of “Out of Africa”, a film I loved, way back when. In fact, when we bought the wonderful “Ruin to be Restored” 7 years ago (right when the collapse of the Italian property market happened smile emoticon ) I kept repeating to myself “I have a house in Tuscany”! Picture of ruin below. It is now for sale because we realised that, since my parents and brother no longer want a part of it for various reasons, it was too big – 380mq for, little old us, especially since one son is in Australia and the other here but only for a short while. Would be perfect for a big house, 2 or 3 smaller flats or even a small hotel. The neighbours behind the house are builders too smile emoticon If anyone knows of anyone who is searching for this kind of gem, pass it on xxx

Tonia Hall's photo.
Margaret Hobbs What a beautiful place Tonia,We Have lived in the Rojales area for 11 yrs which is 15 mins inland from Guardamar ,Torrevieja .I love living in Spain,still struggle to speak the language,I find reading and listening to the TV/radio easier.I really wanted to live out in the country but my husband felt happier living nearer people ,shops etc (he is the sensible one) ! We are very lucky to have good friends and neighbours and excellent medical care so think he was right but I won’t tell him so !!

Tonia Hall Margaret Hobbs Yes, he is right. Here we live in a small village with all we need right here but even this old ruin would not have been far from most things while still being in the country. However, it is right to sell it now smile emoticon

Tonia Hall Julie, I met Guido when I was sooooo fed up with men (had moved to live with my Greek boyfriend in Kefalonia and it did NOT work out) and he, Guido, was there, on a sailing holiday, having just separated from his wife. He invited me for a week’s holiday. 26 years later we are still together and in love. Photos below. This was at Christmas last year. You can see that he is still just as lovely xxx

Tonia Hall's photo.
Julie Haigh Beautiful photo-I love your christmas trimmings too!

Tonia Hall We never met while flying. He is 15 years older than me and the age difference has never been in the least a problem.

Tonia Hall We both adore Christmas. For us a tree is only a tree if it is covered in every decoration we have ever had. We have so many memories tied up in those decorations and, with James, we trim the fake tree every year (it would not last if it were real, as we put it up on 1st Dec and take it down on 6th Jan). I can be elegant in other areas of my life but Christmas has to be …Bright and sparkly 
Gill Gregory You’ll have to post a pic of your tree on WLM Christmas Tree competition this coming Christmas

Val Poore Gorgeous photo of a gorgeous couple! xxx

Pat Ellis Hi Tonia *waving from London* – just popped in for a quick catch-up before heading out for a Sunday Roast with our visitors – I’ve not read Whisper yet but it’s on my ‘to-read’ list that’s for sure – I love the med & memoirs about sailing – so it’s right up my street smile emoticon Do you have time for any hobbies / something you do just for you? Have a good time in SS hotseat and will catch up again later smile emoticon

Val Poore Hi Tonia! Greetings from Rotterdam!! We’ve had quite a bit of contact as authors with the same publisher, but one thing I’ve never asked you is whether you had any misgivings about moving to Italy? I know you love England, so was it hard to move to Tuscany?

Gill Gregory Hi back again from doing housework , have you got any pets ?

Val Poore And I have another question smile emoticon What is your favourite part about sailing? Do you like being out at sea beyond sight of land, or is it the frequent ports of call that you like? How would you feel about crossing one of the oceans and being at sea for days on end without seeing land?

Tonia Hall Just back from lunch to find some lovely comments from Gill, Pat andVal -Thank you x Well, Pat, other hobbies, apart from writing? Guido is the sailor and pilo -, I just love him smile emoticon. My hobbies are walking, book clubs- reading as much as I can of any genre and yoga. Basically, I do as little exercise as possible, read as much as I can and walk it off when I get too fat from eating Guido’s delicious pasta – He is acton man and they do say opposities attract?!Gill, I had the most beautiful dog, member of the family and teacher of the art of unconditional love – Stella – photo below. Unfortunately for me I am allergic in a big way to dog hair. Did not know it until we got her as a puppy in summer. I thought I had hay fever, then a cold. Finally I went to my Dr when I was really bad at Xmas and he told me it was an allergy. So, for the next 10 years (sadly she only lived 10 years) I took antihystamin tablets, kept my asthma spray with me and used an aerosol daily. I would so much rather have had her for more years than feel better. She was just the most wonderful friend smile emoticon

Tonia Hall's photo.
Val Poore Guido is a very lucky man, Tonia. You are a darling, but then I knew that already xx

Gill Gregory Our first dog was a gsd called Max

Shirley Ledlie Hi Tonia – I hope you are enjoying your day in the hot seat! I am busy in my greenhouse so haven’t read all your posts yetso I hope I don’t repeat any questions. Are there any countries which you haven’t visited yet that you really want to? I am an avid yoga fan too, I try to practise every day. Did you manage to practise when you were on your boat?

Becky Corwin-Adams Good morning, Val! It sounds like you have lived a very interesting life!

Tonia Hall Val, Thanks for your questions. it is strange, we only know each other from social media and yet it feels like greeting a real friend here. That is the joy of internet. You never know when you will make a real contact with someone special. I am sorry about the problems you have had recently, with the reviews you were given by unknow readers, who Amazon deemed friends. Anyway, to answer those questions, honey – It was not hard to move to Italy, I was young and in love. It was hard to stay there when my parents got older and needed me and I lost the early “love affair” stage with Italy. I struggle with not being close to my family. I still make mistakes with the Italian language, although now I just keep going and try not to care. I no longer make the huge mistakes of the early days like asking the hairdresser to “perform a mess on my head” smile emoticon I like Italy as much as I like England but could quite happily move on now. That is part of having a gypsy soul, I suppose. As to sailing, Guido loves to lose sight of land. His eyes go all shiny and clear blue and he takes on his “old man and the sea” pose at the helm. I hate that and when we sight land I breathe a huge sigh of relief. I can get off, have a coffee, walk on dry land, feel safe. We are so very different. It is testament to how much I love him that I even contemplate new sailing adventures smile emoticon My favourite time on board is when we are tied up, safely, to the jetty with unlimited water for showers and electricity and I invite friends for dinner and we all sit squashed up together eating and drinking and laughing until, the early hours without having to worry about tide or wind smile emoticon.

Val Poore Ah Tonia, I so agree about being real friends here, and I know that when we meet next month, it will be very special! Now about this sailing thing, Guido should buy a sailing barge! You would both be happy then! You could travel from open water to open water via rivers and canals smile emoticon Sorted!

Val Poore What you need is one of these… and then you can come and visit me and sail in Zeeland too smile emoticon

Val Poore's photo.
Susan Jackson Val Poore, my husband had some of his art shown at the museum in Zeeland, Zeeland and US Coast Guard paintings

Val Poore Susan yes! I remember that! You showed me a photo of one of his paintings. It was really lovely! x

Tonia Hall Becky, you have to read Val Poore‘s memoirs. they are truly fascinating x

Becky Corwin-Adams I have to find time to read first…………

Susan Jackson Hi Tonia, from Florida here, read your book a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I will have to look up your other book and can’t wait for a new one!! It sounds like you have a wonderful marriage and having just read your book and seen the pictures of your son it is hard to believe he is 21 already!,

Susan Joyce Good morning Tonia Hall! Lovely to see you in the Spotlight this morning. I’ll be back with questions once I have a chance to read through the thread! Hope you enjoy a sharing all about your life.

Tonia Hall Shirley, oh dear,I have just picked myself off the floor from laughing. As I said, I am just the opposite of Guido so … completely unsporty. I do love yoga. The feeling I get from breathing correctly and sliding from one exercise to another, then mediating a bit, is wonderful. However, the thought of trying to do that on board had me doubled up. Not that one cannot. I have a friend who does. However, for me, every time I try ,even to relax at night to go to sleep, the rigging starts to sing a wild song and before we know it we have to up anchor and move to a bay on the lee side of an island. During the day, the constant movement would make me loose balance in all but the most basic of positions – those involved with eating smile emoticon

Val Poore Do you like gardening too, Tonia? And do you grow your own vegetables in your garden?

Tonia Hall Hi Susan, Thanks so much. I have your book on my to read list and am really looking forward to it. Thanks for your comments here. Yes, I am so lucky. I have a wonderful marriage to a man who is my best friend as well as my lover. The secret is that we talk – really talk – every day and we try never to judge. I never take what we have for granted. A marriage is made up of many compromises and realising that life is not perfect, but if you can share a trouble or a laugh you are in a good place smile emoticon Jamies is just enormous! I have no idea where we got him from. We are both shorties and he has an irritating habit of leaning over us, patting our heads and saying “Little Mum and Dad”!! Us together when James was little, on Whisper.

Tonia Hall's photo.
Shirley Ledlie  I am not a sailor and go green at the very thought of going on a boat. A couple of years ago my husbands boss invited us on his boat to fish and have lunch on a secluded beach. I thought I would be ok but after 20 mins of the ‘bobbing’ hubby and I had gone green and had to head off. It was only when we stopped off at the beach we discovered it was a nudist beach so we stayed in the sea for the next hour till it was time to go. Do you still have your boat? How often do you go out on it now?

Tonia Hall Me and the baby now – no longer a cowboy with a gun in hand but maybe more a pirate?!

Tonia Hall's photo.
Susan Joyce Beautiful photo!

Deanna Moore Brown Handsome man!

Beth Haslam What a super photo.

Charlotte Smith Tonia, I bought your book this morning and now, after a hard morning in the garden, I’m going to treat myself to a bowl of spaghetti al tonno. I’ve had a quick flick through the book and my mouth is watering!

Tonia Hall Val .. love that sailing barge!!! will have to work on Guido smile emoticon

Val Poore Psst, they are gorgeous and they are used for racing as well! You could have the best of both worlds!! xxx

Tonia Hall And, maybe be close to you smile emoticon Dream, dream on xxx

Tonia Hall Sorry folks, just had a mad moment – every time I hit an “a” I got a “q” so now I have moved to the main computer while Guido sorts out the laptop smile emoticonSee, he is good for lots of things smile emoticon

Tonia Hall Val, I love my small garden but anything bigger would be too much for my back and Guido’s. We like to think we are still young and fit but … However, all I manage to grow are whatever comes up in the window boxes I put on the balcony . We make our own compost and each year I get a fine crop of tomato plants, cucumbers and even pumpkins growming among the geraniums. I am too soft- hearted to weed them out and leave them to see if they will create even a small vegetable for us to eat smile emoticon

Val Poore I felt sure you would grow some of the staples. I know what you mean about gardening, though…I am beginning to realise my limitations too. Sorry for the delay here. I had to go out to the shops and ended up going for a walk too! xxx

Tonia Hall Shirley! A nudist beach. Poor you x. I am sea sick too and James was bad when young. Even Skipper Guido sometimes finds himself with his head over the side. However, I am usually ok when not below deck. Of course Guido sends me below when it is really rough, so I can fantasize about him being lost overboard when I am not there to check on him, and panic even more! We are “between boats” as we put it now, looking for the perfect future floating home. I am leaning in the direction of a canal boat like Val‘s smile emoticon I remember one occassion when we picked up friends, fresh from the mainland, and they did not realise that a choppy crossing on a ferry means – trouble. They bought us clams, which we felt honour bound to cook with spaghetti. So, they enjoyed an aperitif outside on deck with a gentle breeze blowing thir hair while Guido and I took it in turns to cook, turn green, poke our heads outside to calm down and back to the galley again. The pasta was perfect, no one vomited and after we move to the lee side of the island at 3 am, while the guests sweetly slept xxx

Tonia Hall Charlotte, thank you so much. I hope you will enjoy it. Spaghetti al tonno is one of my absolute favourites x

Susan Joyce I enjoyed reading about you having a variety of names. Same is true in many countries. I have so many different names here in Uruguay, I can’t remember them all. When I go to bank or doctor’s office and a receptionist calls out a name, I only know it’s me they’re calling when she repeats it several times.

Tonia Hall Charlotte just metioned pasta with Tuna, so I thought I would put the recipe from “Whisper” for authentic Italian Spaghetti with Tuna here for everyone. Spaghetti al Tonno
“When we got back on board Whisper, after visiting Capri, Guido got his fishingrod out again and whiled away the hours until dinner. He didn’t catch anything but was happy enough anyway. Opening a can of tuna was the nearest thing to a fish dinner that Sonia and I could come up with!
500g spaghetti, 2 gloves of garlic, 1 small onion, 120g tin of tuna, 240g tin of peeled tomatoes, salt and sugar for seasoning, olive oil, chopped parsley.
Chop the garlic and onion and fry them in a little olive oil until they begin to brown. Add the tin of tuna and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, seasoning and half a tin of water. Cook the sauce for 10 -15 minutes until the tomatoes break up and the sauce amalgamates well. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and when it is ready, strain it and stir in the sauce. Add the chopped parsley just before serving.” What no one tells you when you watch most cookery programs or read cookery books, is that most of the fussiness of deseeding or removing skins is so unnecessary. Italians just do NOT do that. They cook with all seeds in and skin on. It adds roughage and flavours and cuts down the cooking time involved too.

Deanna Moore Brown Good morning from Texas, Tonya. I have fallen in love with you writing voice just from the way you have answered questions and can’t decide whether to read a memoir or a novel first! Speaking of poppies (which I love, by the way) my disabled husband is having an opiate hazed reality kid of day, so I may not be able to stick around much. But want to ask, which is easier to write; novels or memoir?

Terry Bryan Good morning from Virginia…says the late riser…I’ll read through what’s been said. Enjoy the day!

Tonia Hall Thanks Terry x

Tonia Hall Some sailing related photos x

Tonia Hall's photo.
Tonia Hall My novel, “The Song of the Cypress” is not at all autobiographical but it is firmly based in the beautiful Tuscan valley where I live so here are a couple of photos to give you an idea of what I love most about this wonderful place. The cypresses and olive trees, the purple velvet hills at dusk – magical

Tonia Hall's photo.
Charlotte Smith I agree Tonia – life IS much to short to skin and deseed a tomato!

Tonia Hall Caroline Zimmermann is a very talented artist who captures with paint what I try to describe. She allowed me to use one of her paintings as the cover for “The Song of the Cypress” and if you want to see a visual image of the magic I feel here, check out her web site,

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Tonia Hall If anyone is thinking of taking a holiday here in Tuscany, contact me and I will tell you some of my favourite places to visit smile emoticon

Tonia Hall Susan, Ha ha – well, I have got to the point where I answer to anything, ever a loud whistle from Guido, which is all you can hear when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction when you are trying to anchor smile emoticon

Tonia Hall Deanna, I am so sorry, honey. I hope your husband will make a good recovery, but things sound serious. I had a very bad scare a few years ago when I almost lost Guido, so my thoughts are with you x You asked which is easer to write? I am not sure. (Thank you for your kind words about what you have read so far today) The memoir was written partly from embelished memories taken from my diary and partly from the sensorial experience of sailing at the time. The novels are both different. The Song of the Cypress just wrote itself. I was completely in love with what I was writing. My crotchety, old, wise woman Fiametta started out as a small cameo bit in chapter 3; an old lady carrying a heavy burden of hay home for her rabbits, which is what I often see here in the summer. Then that character took over and wrote her way into my dreams, cackling as I was forced to get up and scribble notes about her at night, even when I had made her a ghost. As I walked with my dog, I observed nature more closely that ever before, because I needed to write from the perspective of the ancient cypress tree, with its unique voice, as it dreamed though space and time. I fell in love with this place all over again when I wrote that novel. The new one which I hope will soon be published, was completely different again. As I said before, It was born from a desire to give my dead friend, Tonino, a less tragic ending. The characture of Miss Angelina Snow is completely made up. She is tall, bony, icy and completely her own woman, with no need or desire to suffer fools. I gave her one of my own traits, which is to march along in loud sounding heels (I cannot manage high ones or I would kill myself but Angelina is a master of them). Guido likes me to wear gym shoes and hates the noise my heels make but I revel in scaring people out of my way as I stomp up behind them smile emoticon I think the beauty of writing is when it GETS to you and takes you over. Then you know you are doing it right. I often reply “yes dear” to my men and regret it later, as I actually had no idea what I was replying to!

Susan Joyce Deanna Moore Brown, sorry to hear of your husband’s health issues. Wishing him a great recovery!

Susan Joyce Tonia Hall, I also have your book on my 2BRead stack. Look forward to reading it. Your novels sound fascinating. How did you find an agent?

Deanna Moore Brown Thanks for your sympathy. My life is a bit hard, but will get easier (or hard in a different way) soon, as I am working towards putting my husband in a nursing home. But today is not about me. The way you talk about writing your novels reminds me of my dear friend who writes the most fantastic fiction (not published yet). I haven’t tried to write anything but the facts of my life, and can’t even do that at the moment. Some day I hope to be taken over by an imaginary friend wink emoticon. One benefit of my life at present is that I do have time to read. I am thankful for that.

Tonia Hall Those imaginary friends can be annoying too:). Once you can put a little distance between what is hurting so much right now you might find that writing is a great way to let go. Even if you only do it for yourself. xxx sending you a hug.

Tonia Hall Apart from Tonino, the only person I have actually used, just as she is, in a book is the character of Rita in “The Song of the Cypress”. In the photo below, at the book launch, she is the tiny old lady with hardly any hair (I cannot find the individuaSee more

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Tonia Hall When we moved to Bath for 8 months last year Susan, I approached a local agent and she liked what she read. Now I am hoping x

Susan Joyce Tonia Hall, As someone who has lived in many different countries, I also feel that the passage of time helps me to put experience into perspective before writing about my adventures. A slight detachment is a good thing.

Cinda Adams Brooks Hi Tonia. What a fun SS–you have a fascinating life and express yourself so beautifully. Can you tell us more about James? Did you homeschool him while on the boat? What is he doing now..profession, hobbies.. Did you have any other children? Any grandkids or hopefuls in the near future?

Tonia Hall Wow, we just had the most tremendous hail storm. Fortunately it passed quickly so I did not have to turn the computer off. A few days ago we drove up the mountains to play in the snow up there. This is not the image most people have of Italy but winters are hard under the Apennine Mountais where we are. So, to cheer us all up and beat those winter blues, here is a photo of my favourite Italian Island, Ponza

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Val Poore This is a really lovely SS, Tonia. I’ve loved catching up with all the comments here. You spread your charm wherever you are. Just lovely!

Tonia Hall Cinda, glad you are enjoying it. I am certainly having fun x James went to the local Italian school here in Tuscany. He was at Italian nursery school too as we sailed all summer and then were here for him to socialise and do school stuff. 

Susan Joyce I am now laughing loudly at the thought of exercising on a moving, bobbing boat. One is forced to move to the wild beat of the boat. Tonia Hall,Shirley Ledlie. For me the meditation was easy if one was present in the moment with nature.

Tonia Hall Would really be sea sick Susan 

Val Poore Tonia, I remember when I read Whisper you said you were sick quite a bit. What I’m wondering is how you manage to get through that, and get used to it? I get very seasick very quickly and I have never volunteered to go sailing as a result.

Cinda Adams Brooks Thank you for the glimpse of James–seems he is supportive of your writing based on the trailer he did for you. We’re there some stories you couldn’t write or it was difficult to put out there because of his feelings. How did you handle that?

Tonia Hall I feel like a travel agent, promoting the Valdarno but how can you imagine the beauty of my valley without photos? (I am trying to persuade Val to come pay me a visit too smile emoticon ) This is the Borro village. Now it all belongs to Ferragamo, who have made it turisty but when I first came here is was a neglected little village scrambling up a hill with house that risked falling down the ravine. There are so many small places like this, which I love.

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Val Poore Och, how gorgoeus! What a view!! I have to come. I think I might just do it alone though as I can’t get K to make a decision smile emoticon

Tonia Hall Show him this and promise him Guido will cook . Might persuade him x

Tonia Hall Cinda, James is very supportive. He is the one who pushed me to keep going when I was about to give up on finding a publisher for “Whisper”. He could write himself and has a wonderful brain and imagination. I think he finds living in this, sometimes mundane, world a bit hard (as do I sometimes) and longs for big adventures again. He was fine about all I wrote in “Whisper” but he was only a baby then and now is so grown up so I do not think I embarrassed him, even with the “cherry stone” incident – no I will not tell, you will have to read smile emoticon. Oh, ok then! He loved them and ate so many, stones and al,l that when they came out again the other end they blocked the delicate boat toilet and Skipper Guido was not best pleased smile emoticon

Cinda Adams Brooks I may have missed this…what do you and your husband do professionally now? Are you a full time writer?

Tonia Hall Val, I could write lots about feeling sea sick. I am lucky because, after the first few days moored in the harbour to get used to no solid ground, I am just about ok unless it is really rough and as long as I am out on deck. As soon as I go below I turn a fetching shade of green. We all sleep a lot when sailing long hauls, catching cat naps below deck, as that seems to help us adjust. Then, when we reach port we stagger around like drunken sailors as we all suffer from land-sickness.

Val Poore I wish I could even face getting used to it, but I can’t. I get very car sick as well…sigh…it doesn’t make having a wandering spirit (which I have) easy smile emoticon

Tonia Hall I get car sick too – no hope really of me ever becoming a proper skipper’s mate!

Val Poore Oh no, Tonia! So you just put up with it! You’re a heroine!

Tonia Hall That’s me – a real life heroine!

Tonia Hall Cinda, Guido is retired and has fun flying that gorgeous red plane around and dreaming of the new boat. I write but also teach English sometimes. Last year Guido and I had a load of fun as mangers of a lovely B&B in Bath UK and I can see ourselves buying a place by the sea one day when Guido no longer dreams of far away horizons (IF!) and doing that during the summer then travelling and exploring during the winter.

Val Poore Gosh I didn’t realise he’d actually finished the plane and was flying it now! He’s unstoppable, isn’t he? What energy he has!

Tonia Hall My best friend called him the Italian Action Man and she got it right!

Tonia Hall An except of the cypress’s “song”. The tree’s voice is quite poetic as it introduces each season or chapter, while the rest of the novel is told in the normal voice of the heroine Annie. However, the cypress is mystical and magical, as are the ones I walk by near my home.
“Spring, season of new beginnings, when all seems possible.
I remember my own beginning as a vague, blind awareness; a subtle sensation of gritty soil and cool, damp darkness around me. Then a certainty of something other, a force that could not be ignored. I felt a swelling within, a desire to expand and push inexorably upwards. I reached out, snaking thin, vulnerable shoots in the direction that drew me. At my core, dank coolness enwrapped me but with each surge of energy, my thinning tips explored new sensations of crumbly earth, pungent with the scent of leaf mould, moss and spore. At last, the first glimpse of pale light sent shockwaves through me and triggered a heady spurt of growth, as I surged to join the miraculous daylight.
After this first frantic scramble for life I settled back, growing slowly in my sheltered space among the old stones, last relic of the men of Tuscia; growing accustomed to the rising sun that brought warmth to the day and the rhythms of the moon as it painted me silver at night. Through a slow, steady cycle of seasons, I grew ever upward until my girth pushed aside the stones that had once protected me and I towered above all that surrounded me and dominated my world.
For the longest time I stood alone, content in my solitude.
Men came and built their dwellings nearby and I watched children play and grow, age and die. Over time, the homes were abandoned and rediscovered, the land worked and then forgotten. Soldiers came and with them came fear but nothing lasts forever:
I was alone once more.
Time and space flowed around me in never-ending circles.
I delighted in each moment of day or year.
I dreamt through centuries yet focused on the intimate second.
I felt my strength grow until it was too great to be constrained by bark and leaf and then, as I expanded, stretching out toward the universe, I felt the shock of connection with someone who stopped to rest in my shade. This was only the first of many such communions with the human soul; so fragile and yet so brave. Now and then, as centuries passed, a special soul drew near, one who could hear my song and who, for a short time sang with me.”

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Tonia Hall The sunflowers in summer. I used to think Van Gogh exaggerated until I saw them myself. They are so tall that if I walk through a field I am dwarfed. I love the way their heads swivel to watch the sun as it moves through the sky each day. Later, when their old, burnt-looking heads loll heavily on their stalks at the end of summer, I feel sad.

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Val Poore My favourites. I adore sunflowers!

Susan Joyce Love your powerful poem about the Cypress tree communicating with a human soul. Reminds me of my days at sea, crossing the Indian Ocean and communicating with nature and other souls.

Tonia Hall Susan, you know what that feels like. Val was asking how I cope with sea sickness and the truth is that I will never enjoy that aspect of sailing but, as you said, when you are alone at sea you can become immersed in the sea around you and communicate with nature and your inner self, on a level you rarely can in the everyday world. The waves ripple all around, copper and pewter glinting on them in a never ending, ever-changing rhythm and it is mesmeric. You feel your heart slow and just breathe (we are back to yoga again here Shirley) and feel so grateful to be alive and part of life.

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Val Poore Rivers and canals can do that too…without the seasickness 

Tonia Hall So true, hon x

Val Poore I’ll keep trying, but I guess I should be talking to Guido, not you xxx

Charlotte Smith Tonia, now my tummy is full I can talk about food. In Italy does everyone make their own pasta from scratch or do most people buy it in packets? smile emoticon

Tonia Hall Val asked me ages ago about living in cramped spaces on board. Here is the galley of “Euriklea” with the most wonderful feature the boat had, a pull-out bread boad above the drawer that could be reached from a sitting position. One of the small joys of a good design that you have to experience to really appreciate smile emoticon

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Susan Joyce I do. Tonia Hall Being at one with nature in the vastness of an ocean is magical.

Tonia Hall Charlotte, Some people do still make their own pasta but I never have. I actually do not like pasta made with egg, which most fresh pasta you can find is, so I use the usual dried pasta. What I love about Italian food is the way we use what is in season for the pasta sauces or other dishes. Right now I am having an artichoke binge. I love them deep fried, or in a sauce, or roasted. The asparagus is still really expensive but next week I promise myself roasted asparagus spears or to use them as pasta sauce with a bit of onion, garlic and pancetta . joy smile emoticon

Pat Ellis I am loving catching-up on your SS Tonia – the photos are totally beautiful smile emoticon Although Andalucia is where my ‘heart & soul’ flitters away to now and then – we do have Italy on our list of places to tour when time is more our own. Although we’ve seen the cities we’ve not actually seen ‘Italy’. Off to continue with catching-up now.

Tonia Hall I want to see Andalucia so maybe we can swap info Pat. x

Pat Ellis ^ definitely – good plan grin emoticon

Charlotte Smith Tonia – if I were queen I would only allow my subjects to eat seasonal produce! grin emoticon

Tonia Hall A lovely sketch done by my friend Marco Milanese, showing me going crazy, trying to hold onto my wits and the baby on elastic, while Captain Guido sails blissfully. He did not draw in the high-heeled sandals I sneaked into my bag while Guido wasn’t looking or the tuna we finally hauled in after a long struggle, only to find it was a plastic rubbish bag.

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Tonia Hall Guido has just informed me that he is hungry – again smile emoticon So, we are going to pull chairs up in front of the fire, toast some bread over it, rub the bread with garlic, sprinkle some salt and pour on our wonderful local olive oil – perfect bruschetta. Add a glass of our wine and a slice of local pecorino cheese and we will be very happy. Sometimes the simplest food is the best. I will be back later. Thanks so very much to everyone for making me feel welcome on this SS. You are such a wonderful group.

Val Poore Yum!!

Pat Ellis ^ that sounds totally scrummy – rustic ooooo just lovely – enjoy smile emoticon

Cathy Marshall Monaghan Buongiorno from Tucson, AZ! I bought your book last year and it’s waiting for me on my Kindle. I will get to it eventually, Tonia. Sundays are always so busy here, so I just want to say I hope you have a GREAT day in the SS! I will read all the comments and look at all the photos later this evening when all the grand kids are in bed and I can relax. Thanks for doing this!!! Ta Ta for Now …

Beth Haslam Hello Tonia – what wonderful photos you have here! smile emoticon I’m still catching up so please forgive me if someone has already asked you this. What inspired you to start writing poetry?

Tonia Hall Thank you Cathy. I hope you enjoy it when you start to read it. I know what it is like – I have a lot of lovely books waiting on my Kindle to be read once I get a chance. That is one of the things I really appreciate about this group, all the great recommendations.

Tonia Hall Hi Beth, No one has asked that smile emoticon I have always written poetry. A poem can encapsulate in shorthand the mass of emotions that one feels about something. If you look at the Poppy comment above, where I posted the poem and the explaination about how I came to write it, the poem has just a few lines but the description is long. I wrote Poppies for my mum. I had never thought of publishing the poetry – it can be so personal. However, one day my mum was reading my work and she felt sad. She said she had never known that I felt that way about things. I am a very happy person but we all have moments, don’t we. As I said, a poem encapsulates an emotion, so if I am feeling nostalgic or moved by the poignancy of a thing, I try to capture it. I seldom feel moved to write a poem about a happy emotion. Maybe I should write “A Ode to Bruschetta” right now, as I sit happily replete and basking in that bready morsel smile emoticon Anyway, I wanted to explain to mum about why I wrote the words that I did. Once I started to do that, she found that the breast cancer she thought she had beaten 4 years previously had come back, in her bones and lung. So, as she bravely carries on as always, being the loving, supportive centre of our family, I wanted her to see that my poems are not sad, they are fragments and I wrote for her. I published Poppies because I wanted her to know just how much she is treasured. Otherwise I would have kept those parts of my work to myself, I expect, but I am glad to have done it and know that, when friends of hers phone to tell her they have read the book and enjoyed it, it gives my mum pleasure.

Beth Haslam What a profoundly moving response Tonia, thank you very much. So, really, the poem is a part of you – a way of expressing your feelings about things and especially your mum. Gosh what a brave lady she is. I like very much that you choose to capture a certain emotion, not necessarily downbeat at all (love An Ode to Bruschetta!). Something poignant that you want to express in words. I very much admire you for being able to do that. Thanks so much! 

Beth Haslam What brave words Tonia. Perhaps she feels that is her purpose in life – her raison d’ĂŞtre. I absolutely agree with you. You must be terribly proud of her.

Patricia Steele I have enjoyed reading to catch up on all the posts and it reminds me of a very good book I cannot put down!!! And I am also a potato addict…never found one I didn’t like! I am sorry to miss out on the rest but will catch up when I return. A violin concert awaits. Have fun, Tonia. Anxious to read more of your poetry. Your words tugged at my heart and inched out a smile. Thank you!

Tonia Hall This is taken in Greece when sailing with friends recently. I love this faded wooden jetty. We did not stay long here however. We were tied to rocks as the jetty was not deep enough and took the tender over to this spot. When we got back to the boat, Skipper Jean Francois, a very excitable Frenchman, was jumping up and down and said we had to cast off straight away as mice had kept trying to come along the ropes. He had warned them off but was frantic to get away! One of the less lovely moments!

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Tonia Hall Patricia, enjoy the concert. I will be thinking up odes to bruschetta and potatoes now X

Tonia Hall James and his big brother Andrea steering “Whisper”. There were moments when I was worried about taking them to sea, when we encountered one of the many storms that brewed quickly in the Med, but they grew up totally in love with the sea. Both of them are scuba divers and they are free thinkers who love adventure as much as their dad.

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Zoe Marr Hi Tonia, sorry to be so late to your SS, it’s realtively early mornig here in NZ. I’ve loved seeing your photos and reading your comments. All this tlak of italian food is making my mouth water – would you ever consider writing a recipe book?

Tonia Hall Thanks Zoe. In “A Whisper on the Mediterranean” there are many recipes, one at least for each chapter. They are very simple as the idea is that anyone can make them in the comfort of their home if I could make them on board. I also wrote a lot about the local Tuscan food in “The Song of the Cypress” and I was going to write those recipes up one day. I even started to do so and called it “Annies Recipes”. Annie discovers herself through her relationships with Fiametta, the wild woman, guardian of the cypress and the other local people in her new Tuscan home, as well as through her love story with Joe. They introduce her to the simple and delicious Tuscan cooking. She goes mushroom picking at dawn with Joe and Pietro, has the mid summer picnic with all her neighbours and tastes what the local hunters bring home. I was quite shocked to be offered “Bambi”, as one nice old neighbour called it, or wild boar or porcupine but once I had got over the shock I found it right to eat what had been caught instead of a flacid lump of meat wrapped in celophane in a supermarket. The locals know where to look and what to pick in the woods and share their knowledge VERY reluctantly. The porcini and other mushrooms are just sooo good. I wish I could hold a feast for the We Love Memoirs group and offer them all the delicacies I have learnt to love. Maybe I would avoid tripe though smile emoticon

Tonia Hall I am working on two new books at the moment. They are unfinished and one has no title and just a very vague outline. It is about a woman who is linked to the sea in a profound way – tentative title “Mermaids Breathing”. The other has been planned out and I am about half way through. It is not a novel, or a memoir but a book, which I doubt I will ever publish, written for my potential future grandchilden, called “Uniquely You”. One cannot teach anyone else life’s lessons, they have to learn from their own mistakes but I would like to be able to offer them at least a glimpse of some techniques to find contentment in your own personal way of life.

Zoe Marr Thanks so much for your answer Tonia, A Whisper on the Mediterranean is on my To Read list so I look forward to trying your recipes. A WLM feast sounds perfect – and yes everywhere seems to have that one ‘delicacy’ or two which I’m sure only the locals find palatable.

Val Poore Hi Tonia, just popping back between marking assignments. I just love the photos!! That was something I missed in my kindle version of the book. I think I’ll have to try and get the paperback now smile emoticon Your comments are marvellous. What a special soul you are. No wonder your family adore you so! xxx

Tonia Hall Val, you are so sweet. I think you had the e-book with no photos. The kindle and the book have only black and white ones unfortunately.

Val Poore Black and white is fine! I shall buy it smile emoticon

Gill Gregory Hi , just returned from work so will catch with what I’ve missed

Susan Joyce Tonia Hall, almost time to walk dogs here in Uruguay! I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you. I agree that people learn best from their own unique adventures. One thing I’ve shared with our son is the importance of finding and listening to his own unique voice, in order to know what rings true and what doesn’t. Happy to say he is finding his way in life.

Tonia Hall Good night everyone. It has been a great day. I will answer any new questions tomorrow. Thanks again to everyone.

Pat Ellis Thanks for a wowza of an SS Tonia – it’s been lovely getting to know you – maybe a WLM meet-up one day – enjoy the rest of your evening smile emoticon

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Susan Joyce Yes, Tonia Hall, enjoy your evening! Thanks for your time and energy today!

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Julie Haigh Time for me to say thank you Tonia! Thank you for such a wonderful and very interesting Spotlight. You have had such a varied life and careers-I loved hearing your anecdotes from your time being an air hostess and do hope there is a memoir forthcoming about your time in the fashion business! I certainly look forward to hearing more about you and Guido in any further memoirs. Your writing-even in these Facebook comments on your spotlight is so beautiful and expressive, so meticulous, neat and detailed so I can imagine how lovely it will be to read your memoir and your fictional books. Thanks so much for your time today-it’s been lovely getting to know more about you, your family and your writing.