So S is for Scary, Stories and Supplies today for my entry in Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe Thursday now all I need is a monster aged 8 or over…..

Have you ever heard of 826 literacy project? I hadn’t until yesterday, quite by chance via Twitter and that gives me a fourth S today Serendipity but I digress dear reader. The 826 National is a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization, set up to assist students aged six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? This is one time that I want to be 10 years old again!

Currently there are 9 centres dotted all over the USA and now, luckily for us, some very hard working people who you can read about on We Made This have secured funding from the Arts Council and The JJ Charitable Trust the author Nick Hornby jumped on board and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies –  Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind opened back in November 2010 for the delight of kids across the land and I WANT TO GO NOW! Only I need to be aged 8 – 18…even my best attempt at a monster disguise won’t let me get away with the loss of that many years!

The shop was established in 1818 and has been supplying Britain’s extensive monster community since. In fact you can find a whole range of Tinned Fears each containing a specially commissioned short story from authors like Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith, there is a wonderful selection of Human Preserves and a very handy Neck-Bolt Tightener amongst other necessary monster wares. The beadier eyed beast will note that the shelves of the shop conceal an entrance. A secret and well disguised portal that leads to the Ministry of Stories which has been architectured and designed in the smallest detail to feel really special and it certainly looks special.

The Ministry has already held numerous workshops which monsters both locally and from afar have given their thumbs up. The BBC themselves were suitably impressed and the journalist from The Guardian gave a glowing report. But let’s be honest – would you dare write a bad review on a monster supply shop? – not me!

So if you have some monsters lying around who need a little inspiration or a creative outlet to create the next Harry Potter then you really should rush down to this place…I’m going to kidnap my niece and nephew (aged 9 and 11) whilst they’re sleeping and leave my twins in their beds so their parents won’t realise, that’ll get me my ticket into the Ministry of Stories. How are you going to get in?

I confess to stealing each and every single photo from the We Made This blog and I am now on a 24/7 monster watch. Aaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh

This week I have chosen the heel of the beautiful Boot, a region called Puglia (Apulia). I spent my last family holiday here in 2002 and although it was the beginning of the end as far as my marriage was concerned those sad memories cannot erase the beauty and the perfect holiday I spent in these parts. We decided to hire a camper van and tour the area and it was the most amazing experience allowing us to visit many places in a two-week break.

Again, Puglia offers far too much to be covered in one post so I shall take you along part of our camper van route which starts off on the ‘spur’ of the boot, the stunning Gargano promontory a sailors paradise and full of culture, history and art. The medieval towns like Vieste are a delight to discover and Mattinata can be traced back to 500 BC. San Giovanni Rotondo, home of the infamous Padre Pio, a venerated saint in Italy, is also home to an ancient round temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. Apart from the clear blue seas Gargano is also a national park offering numerous treks for nature lovers and one last place that must have a mention is the Tremiti Islands a collection of five islands, two of which have been populated since ancient times and according to myth the island was inhabited by Diomedes when he returned from the battle of Troy. We took the ferry over and walked through the old towns, we had lunch in a tiny restaurant with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad served with capers picked from the island and we hired a dinghy and sailed around the island stopping off in the various bays to swim. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.

‘For sale extra virgin olive oil and genuine home made wine, refer to ex lifeguard Andrea’ (ex – ???) :)

We drove through the province of Bari and enjoyed various beaches along our way towards Alberobello, an inland town home of the trulli. These cone-roofed houses are typical of the area, built amongst olive groves and used today as shops and also villas to let. Each roof has a pinnacle or cross and strange stone markers said to have a magical significance, walking through the streets is a surreal experience and a stop off in one of the stores to buy a ‘fischietto’ or whistle as a souvenir is another must.

puglia trulli Alberobello

Next mention must be Ostuni, an inland white medieval town which sparkles against the red rich soil of the area. We ate at the Osteria del Tempo Perso  in the centre of the town renowned for it’s excellent food and glorious wine list, the restaurant is separated into two areas, one an oven dating back to the 1500’s the other dedicated to the farming history of Ostuni. I ate the most delicious Buffalo mozzarella here I can still taste it today, sigh….

Castel del Monte, a 13th century castle standing high on a rock is a UNESCO world heritage site and is also commemorated on the Italian 1 cent.

There is much more to be seen in Puglia and I’ll probably dedicate many future posts to this beautiful region, if you do decide to go then you must try the pasta of the area ‘Orecchiette’ with cime di rape (broccoli heads)

Delicious wines include Martina Franca and Locorotondo the whites and Primitivo, Malvasia Nera and Negromaro the reds. Puglia is the major producer of olive oil of the country so make sure to bring a bottle home with you.

Guru Nanak Darbar Gravesend

I was born into the Catholic religion and my Nana was so staunch a Catholic that she practically lived in St Patrick’s church at the end of her south London street. On seeing us every other weekend her first question would be, ‘Have you been to mass?’ We replied yes because this made her happy and we would go on to make fairy cakes but the truth was, Mum was Church of England and she didn’t practice so nobody made us go when we weren’t with Nana.

I remember after Nana died in 1989 I asked Dad, ‘Do you think nana’s in Heaven Dad?’ His reply that made me smile was, ‘Blimey, if she didn’t make it love, we don’t stand a chance!’

All three of us went to the local RC comprehensive school; the education is second to none but R.E classes always started with ‘…and stand up if you weren’t in church this weekend’. Invariably I had to stand up and I would be questioned, my reply being ‘I was in London at my nana’s, we went to St Patrick’s.’

The older I got the less it bothered me and by the time I was in the 6th form I had lost any love I may have had for the Catholic church and set out to search for something more meaningful to me.

I am constantly on the lookout for information and interested in how others practice their faith. Because even if I am not a church goer, I do believe. I believe there is a bigger plan, I believe in karma. I believe in Love thy Neighbour and treat as you wish to be treated. I have come to my own constantly evolving conclusion that maybe there’s a little truth in all religions.

guru nanak darbar gravesend

I live in a suburb of London and I grew up here. It’s a busy town, home to many London commuters and people from all walks of life. Nowhere was this more obvious than at our comprehensive school where the mixed classes brought together many children from the popular surrounding communities.

Our local Sikh community has grown extensively and if you ever come to Gravesend you can bet your last penny that the curry will be one of the best in the land, we have award-winning chefs, contemporary Indian restaurants and more take aways than you can shake a stick at but, it was when the Sikh community started to build the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara that people started to have an opinion and many didn’t like the idea.

Guru Nanak Darbar Gravesend

If you ever have the chance to visit you will be taken with the beauty of this temple, years of planning and community spirit to make this one of the most beautiful temples in Britain. The project was entirely funded by the local community. they set up their own construction company to make best use of the skills available to them and for the more detailed stonework and woodcarving, specialist companies in India were contracted.

I went to have a closer look for myself and fortunately the sun came out for me. I found great beauty, I found a place of worship that brings families together. Whilst I walked around the outside, I saw men enter, groups of old women chatting and I saw parents with their children.

I think it’s pretty amazing what people can do when they put their minds to it.

Guru Nanak Darbar Gravesend

I read the inscriptions that had been translated for the English speaking and reading visitors and on returning home I visited the website dedicated to the Gurdwara and found this

Name – From Punjabi sikh, “learner” or “disciple”
founded – c. 1500 in India by Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539)
adherents – 23 million
main location – Punjab region of India
original language – Punjabi
purpose of lifeOvercome the self, align life with will of God, and become a “saint soldier,” fighting for good
afterlifeReincarnation until resolve karma and merge with God.
major holidays – Vaisakhi Day, Birthday of Guru Nanak, Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh
five cardinal vices1. lust 2. anger 3. greed 4. worldly attachment 5. pride
Does anything sound familiar to you? It does to me and I’d like to think that we’re all working for the same goal at the end of the day, that of making this world a better place for our children to live in.
Peace be with you.


funtanazza sardegna

Sardegna is the large island off to the left of the boot when studying Italy on a map. It is vast and has been separated into 8 provinces. I’m sure without knowing anything of the island yet you’ll agree that I couldn’t certainly do it justice in one post! Therefore for my first Holidays in Italy post I shall be concentrating on the North Eastern province which is separated into four areas. Today I shall be focusing on Gallura.

Anyone visiting Sardegna for the first time will wonder if they’ve been teletransported to the Caribbean by mistake when seeing the clearest blue seas lapping the coloured sands of the north and Gallura doesn’t hold back on offering stunning natural beauty spots. In fact the most obvious being the archipelago of La Maddalena, a natural bridge towards Corsica close by. One of the islands is Caprera, last exile of Giuseppe Garibaldi where his tomb still lays today.

Piscinas Sardegna

Sardegna offers close to 2000 kilometers of beaches to choose from and the beauty of this island is that many are still untouched. You may not have beach bars and facilities at many of them but you will not be disturbed. Pack a picnic with plenty of water and go and treat yourself to your own private beach for the day. Gallura has a long list to choose from but some must sees include Capo Testa and Santa Reparata.

Sardegna Costa Verde

A trip to the north wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Costa Smeralda, playground for the rich and famous. Development started in 1961 and was financed by a consortium of companies with Prince Aga Khan for their president. Famous architects put their heads together and according to an extremely detailed urban plan built this luxurious tourist destination. guests looking for complete privacy in which to savour La Dolce Vita will pay between $2000 and $3000 a night.

Sardegna rough seas

If that’s not within your budget and you’re not too fussed at paparazzi following your every move then Holidays in Italy has an extensive list of accommodation ranging from 5 star plus to living with nature in some fabulous camping sites

Sardegna has extensive and delicious food products and wines and in fact this region is renowned for its superb quality of rice produced on the island. You can bring home some freshly pressed olive oil from a local farmer, bottles of Canonnau and Vermentino wine and a delicious liqueur Mirto made from the Myrtle plant cunningly delicious and knocks your head off without you realising it. It has got to be tried.

Torre dei Corsari, Sardegna

So now you’re hooked where should your next stop be? Well for planning your holiday in Italy I would without a doubt point you in direction of Love Italy, an association of tour operators and holiday organisers who specialise in Italy. I worked with them in the early stages as they set up the association ABTOI whilst working at the Italian Tourist Board so I can assure you it has the nod of the tourist board and I am so pleased to see they have come so far. Their web site has a click-through to the operators organising in the area you are interested in offering self catering to top five-star, organising walking holidays, art and cultural discoveries and even Weddings in Italy.

The Italian Tourist Board is also a vital stop off for any information.