Walking where lava flowed

São Vicente is a village on the north coast of Madeira, at the end of the valley that was the birthplace of the island. We were keen to take our grandchildren to walk where lava once flowed, so organized Ricardo and his taxi to take us across the island from Funchal to São Vicente, on a road where the latter part was prone to landslips and where there had been bad flooding a few years ago.

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Mmmm, that’s good!

The large mahogany table in the kitchen groaned with bowls and baskets of fruit, some, like tomatoes, staples of our diets at home though different varieties that seemed to have more flavour. We trawled market and supermarkets for salad ingredients and experimented with some fruit and vegetables we weren’t familiar with. Bananas were Madeiran, slightly smaller, firmer and less cloying than those we usually buy, but with a flavour that filled your mouth.

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Impressive, quirky, idiosyncratic

A major celebration is always a time for reflection, for remembering people and occasions, quirks and sayings, events of significance and insignificance. Granny used to say… I can still see his face when… Do you remember the time we went to…? That’s something I’ll always remember, especially when the idiot…

So reflections were on my mind as well as lips during our stay in Madeira.

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November 1st

Here comes winter. The clock has changed and we’re in the count-down to Christmas, though many shops have been sneaking festive fare into their displays for the past month and more. But with Halloween over, and a free run until December 25th (though here in Scotland we have St Andrew’s day on November 30th, with Thanksgiving in the States) retailers will be ramming presents, food and what to wear for those wall-to-wall parties (what parties, we huddle by the fire here!) and that all-important big day.

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Previously average

As I stay far from shops I have become a great fan of online shopping. This of course means buying without trying on, so I’ve had to think harder about what styles suit and what colours would work with other clothes in my wardrobe.

Until fairly recently I haven’t had a problem with clothes shopping, as I seemed to be around average height. So skirts were the length

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Food al fresco

When you hail from a country where summers rarely reach dizzying heights of temperature (more often a mix of sun and cloud and the occasional shower) eating in the open air is a fairly rare experience, especially when it comes to evening meals. As the sun goes down the dew falls, making it chilly to sit outside, and more often than not the pesky midges appear to make the occasion a misery rather than a pleasure. So one of the real joys of trips abroad is…

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Noir – author and experts

Recently, husband and I were pleased to receive an invitation to a book launch, not in the tented village of the Edinburgh book festival, but not far from it in Waterstones, the well-known book shop, at the west end of Princes Street. Lin Anderson, Tartan Noir crime novelist and co-founder of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival, was launching another book – None but the Dead – about her forensic pathologist Rhona MacLeod, the action of this taking place on the small Orkney island of Sanday.

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Jamón, whisky and sculpture

Once again the tents have gone up in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, the walkways laid, bookshop and bars stocked, hospitality spaces decked with tubs of flowers, toilets positioned, and the central area supplied with watching-the-world-go-by chairs for some of the throngs anticipated.

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