It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Bank Holiday Monday in the middle of the summer must be in want of a good old rainstorm to keep the Brits in their place.
I am currently sitting in my parents' gloomy kitchen watching a cool and breezy summer evening being positively stolen before my own eyes. Raindrops are sliding down the slick window panes, slowly and lazily like big fat snails. Our little garden looks as if it has been dowsed in shades of green and grey by a depressed artist (mostly thanks to Dad's shed and Mum's penchant for Farrow & Ball paint). Even the puppy doesn't want to play outside in the verdant damp.
A rainy Bank Holiday is no fun.
I woke up this morning at 6am, bright and early and ready to get to the pool for the usual training session. Until I remembered that the pool was shut. No matter, I would get on with some of my uni work (beware all you future year-abroaders, it isn't just fun and games!) Six hours later and I was positively shaking from hunger, dehydration and stress (I'm a pretty hardcore essay writer).
Needless to say, that went out the window. I jumped in the car with mum and went for lunch at Wyatt & Jones in nearby Broadstairs (which you must visit if you're ever in the area), got absolutely sozzled on Kentish Bramley apple cider and elderflower liqueur, stuffed myself with pea and celery soup with quails egg and walnut oil, homemade potato and onion bread, root vegetable Pan Haggerty with mushroom croutons and cider cream and finally a cherry and apple crumble with cold custard.
We battled through the coastal wind and rain for approximately five minutes before giving up on all of the closed shops (not before I bought myself a rather robust hole-punch from Staples, what a wild child) and collapsing at home to watch soppy films on TV.
And now I am back here. At my laptop. With the essay in front of me. The essay which is actually a journal which I took to mean chatty, casual diary but actually means proper piece of academic writing (shit) which I have now overdone which is now... 50,000 words. Yeah.
SO enough of the British rain! Time for a little escapism.
Three weeks ago, I was here...
The first time I ever visited Parma was on August 3rd 2011. I remember that day because I was on my way to Milan for the first time to meet Magro. I hadn't seen him for a couple of months since we waved goodbye to each other in Las Vegas and I had no idea where we stood. In short, I was terrified.
That day, I wandered around the streets with a friend, tried to stomach some pasta and ended up getting pissed in a park on prosecco (a rather prominent theme in the past year I must say).
This year, we pursued slightly more cultural pursuits.
The cathedral looked rather sorry for itself from the outside and was covered in scaffolding.
Inside, we could have been gazing upon it days after its completion.
A lone nun sat in one of the chapels that flank the main hall, praying to the saints. A lone fossil went virtually unnoticed in one of the cool marble slabs of the floor.
We wandered around under hundreds of pairs of eyes, seeking some brief respite from the choking air outside.
Outside the heavy summer sun was still dousing the piazza in heat so we hid away in the baptistry for ten minutes.
A little excitement ensued when somebody left the tap on and water began to flow across the floor. In a scramble of staff, a very old plug was pulled and the problem was resolved.
There was nowhere left to hide.
Now I can't imagine being wrapped in such warm, drowsy air. Back then we couldn't escape it.
Or so I thought anyway. It turns out that if you go to the Dolomites in the Summer, you will get stuck in snow. But that is a much chillier story for another day. Perhaps a long, hot day here in England.
This is what the cathedral and baptistry should look like and hopefully will when you go and visit.
Obviously no trip to Parma would be complete for me without sitting in a park.
There was no prosecco this time but we did waste at least an hour and a half sitting in the shade and lazing. With some chilled bottles of water, we were blissfully happy watching the locals in their park.
A group of young men were playing cricket in the middle, completely engrossed in their game whilst the sweat ran down their backs. Little girls cycled around the track, their dads running manically to try and keep up, their little peals of laughter filling the air. Dogs bolted across the grass, barking and bowing and chasing balls and generally being impervious to the heat.
Many of the towns and cities in Emilia Romagna are resplendent in the honeyed hues that you see here. It gives the impression of a permanent dusk settling over the roofs and reflects the city's heritage - yellow for parmesan cheese, pink for Parma ham.
Back in Milan, we headed to Baobab for the best burgers in town. Well the veggie burger is pretty damn good anyway! Courgette and ricotta patty nestled amongst the rocket and the tomatoes and the avocado.. with a good healthy dose of handcut chips!
I loved this beautiful piece of street art on a doorway just across the road from Baobab. The colours and the detail are fantastic, I hope whoever did this comes back and paints more across Milan's less scenic walls and doors.
So now it's time for me to stop lusting after holidays and get back to my journal. 50,000 words... should you be wishing me luck or the guy who has to mark it?