Tuesday, 29 June 2010


After the appalling disappointment of England's performance in the World Cup against "arch-rivals Germany" (as the tabloids can't resist saying) - there is only one sporting possibility who keeps our hearts aflame with hope.
And here he is:

Yes, it's ANDY MURRAY (and looking like a bit of a heart-throb!). Go Andy!
Sport arouses such strong and frustrating passion....maybe I should just channel it all into my current hero, who is a cold-hearted Russian oligarch.
Who are you rooting for at the moment?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


National excitement was in the air today as England prepared for their crucial match against Slovenia. Pubs were packed. Some folk skivved off work. Football-related discussions could be overheard in shops among the most unlikely of people. Everyone had an opinion. Mostly it went along the lines of "Rooney-is-rubbish-and-why-doesn't-Capello-play-Joe-Cole?"

I'd even decorated my car (and that's my Dad in the background!).

Well, it was a tense and nail-biting ninety-three minutes and Slovenia proved worthy opponents, but eventually the final whistle blew and we could all start singing:

"Three Lions on a shirt,
Jules Rimet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt
Never stopped me dreaming."

SO, the big question remains. Will England bring home the World Cup again?

And who do you think is going to be in the final?

Friday, 18 June 2010


To historic Syon Park last night to see Carmen, performed by an enchanting opera company called Diva. Diva is a chamber opera - their only musical accompaniment is a grand piano, played exquisitely by Anna Tilbrook. With passionate voices and raw emotion soaring up to the glass ceiling - opera doesn't get much better than this.

Here I am, feeling inspired by the whirling shawls of Carmen, Frasquita and Mercedes!

And here is the incredible conservatory, where the opera is held and where afterwards we ate from upmarket picnic-hampers in air scented by jasmine, while the night sky darkened and became star-sprinkled.

It was one of those magical evenings.....

Thursday, 17 June 2010


It's been a week of culture so far.
On Tuesday, I went to Winchester's own magnificent little theatre to see Harold Pinter's The Caretaker. Not the cheeriest play in the world, true - but a "classic" nonetheless. If only his wife hadn't penned those dreary diaries about her life with the late playwright and turned him into tabloid fodder...

Here I am, posing beside one of the city's many dappled green waterways, on my way to eat pizza before curtain-up.

The following day, I headed up West (as we used to say about London's theatre-land) to see a production of All My Sons - written by my favourite playwright of all time - the American genius, Arthur Miller.

Here's a glimpse of the set.
The acting was faultless. The text as powerful as when it was first written. Spine-tinglingly wonderful. I had the real sense of being part of some kind of theatrical alchemy. I've seen some amazing plays in my life - but this production has to be up there in the top five.

Tonight, I'm off to the opera - but in the meantime - what's one of the best plays you've ever seen?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Italians (though playing a surprisingly under-achieving game of football against Paraguay in the World Cup last night) are model citizens when it comes to preserving the earth's resources. They eat locally-produced food (much of it grown themselves, whenever possible) and they don't tolerate waste.

Here I am in the exquisite town of Lucca - refilling my water bottle from a fountain. Cool, clean water - which is free. No need for hot tourists or workers to buy yet another un-recyclable plastic bottle of the stuff.

Simple question: Why aren't there more water fountains the world over?

Do you have a simple suggestion for ways to conserve the planet's resources (apart from closing down BP!)?

Saturday, 12 June 2010


Well, actually - mine was on Thursday and I had a wonderful day.
Here I am, eating oysters (yum!)

at one of my favourite restaurants which is in Tate Britain. If you look closely you'll be able to see the wonderful Rex Whistler murals which make the room feel like such an Arcadian paradise. I had lunch with an eminent historian (with whom I share a birthday) and a newly ennobled Lord, who has a keen interest in animal welfare.

Later, I was the recipient of this magnificent bouquet - which made me feel like one of my own heroines!

Here's a suitable tune to listen to by The Beatles
What time of the year is your birthday and what do you like best to do?

Saturday, 5 June 2010


Visiting Chester recently, I was enchanted by the intricate clock which looks down on this pretty city.

It probably sounds geeky, but I love public clocks. Traditionally a meeting place, their significance is huge. I wonder what human intrigue they have witnessed. I think about the chiming away of the years and the importance of seizing the moment. And of course, I love the poem which has (possibly) the world's most famous line about clocks - the heartbreakingly beautiful poem by Rupert Brooke - the first and last verses of which I have copied here:

The Old Vicarage, Grantchester

(written at the Cafe des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)

Just now the lilac is in bloom,
All before my little room;
And in my flower-beds, I think,
Smile the carnation and the pink;
And down the borders, well I know,
The poppy and the pansy blow . . .
Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
Beside the river make for you
A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
Deeply above; and green and deep
The stream mysterious glides beneath,
Green as a dream and deep as death.
-- Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
How the May fields all golden show,
And when the day is young and sweet,
Gild gloriously the bare feet
That run to bathe . . .
Du lieber Gott!'

Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Rupert Chawner Brooke (1887-1915)

Friday, 4 June 2010


This is the kind of image I like to keep in my memory-bank.....sitting in a flower-filled restaurant in Aix en Provence, and just about to eat a delicious goat's cheese salad.

And this was the scene which greeted me on the morning of my (delayed!) departure.

The French on strike (a national strike) because they were objecting to plans to raise the retirement age because of the national debt.

Someone carried a placard declaring their protest to be "Like the Greeks".
In an ideal world, I can see the attractions of early retirement for some people. Just as I can see the attractions of world peace, the eradication of poverty and the banning of junk food. The list could go on and on.
The trouble is that it's not.....
An ideal world, that is.
Do you have sympathy with the strikers?

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Here I am, posing in the glorious sunlight in the magnificent city of AVIGNON, where last week I spent a wonderful two days with my lovely son, Patrick.

Here he is.

This photo was taken when we took the bus to Aix en Provence - which I found a little underwhelming. I much preferred the buzz of Avignon with it's beautiful, high-walled buildings. It was there we ate dinner, overlooking the gleaming Rhone - on an island which is the longest river island in Europe. We could see the famous bridge, too.

However, it was in Aix that I found this house in a tiny, dappled square - and I just knew that it was going to feature in a future book. (Just not sure which one, since I have never written a French hero!)

I found myself wishing I could live here - if only for a day, a week, a month!

Have you ever found a property which made you drool with house-envy?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Surrounded by a sea of flowers....
And surrounded by sea....
Yes, I'm in glorious Cornwall, where I've been running along the cliff-top, eating scones with cream and jam (the second activity making the first activity absolutely
vital!) and eating the most delicious food at The Seafood Restaurant where I fell in love with the amazing art-work which adorned the walls there.

And this is currently the view from my window.
(Funnily enough, I don't seem to have done very much writing this morning.....!)

So won't you look out of your window now - and tell me what it is you see?