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Friday, 24 May 2013

Wimpole Hall

Last Sunday we took a friend to Stansted airport to catch a plane. Having been laid low by flu the previous week we decided to make a day of it and visit Wimpole Hall which is owned by the National Trust and is the largest house in Cambridgeshire.

Some buildings just sit perfectly within the landscape around them. Wimpole Hall, is one of these rare places.

It was built around 1640 which was during the time of Charles I (1625-1649) and the land around it was sculpted and modified by various designers over the years including the landscape gardener, Capability Brown (1716-1783). There is absolutely no traffic noise to be heard, just the sounds of birdsong, of a gentle breeze rustling the leaves in the trees, and children's laughter as they run along the paths.The Hall was last owned by Elsie Bambridge who gifted it to The National Trust in 1976. She was Rudyard Kipling's daughter and spent the last thirty years of her life living in this huge house, after the death of her husband, and devoting herself to restoring its treasures. Some of the rooms inside are lovely and homely, whereas others are more stately and I don't know if it is haunted but someone definitely 'stepped on my grave' at the bottom of the main staircase. But the most seductive aspect of this house, for me, was the outside space.

The razzmatazz of tulips was stunning.

The flowers on the tree paeony were just about to open into voluptuousness.

And the grass was strewn with daisies. I do love daisies!

At intervals it was blessed with cowslips. Perfection!

But behind these gates was a totally unexpected treat.
Apple trees billowing with pink-tinged blossom.
Walking through these we came to the deepest herbaceous borders.
And then it was through another gate into the walled garden.
Where a gentleman with a pipe was busy sowing seeds.
And the sun was beating down hotly (hard to imagine as I write this only a few days later) on the plants in the glasshouse.

This plant name summed up the whole experience.

If you are anywhere near Cambridge and fancy somewhere special to visit I really recommend Wimpole. There is something for everyone, even a farm with donkeys and sheep, turkeys and shire horses.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and I hope you have some brilliant days this week too.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Ups and Downs

I'm back! It's been a strange few weeks. Some good bits, some bad bits. I'll get the bad bits out of the way first!

Three weeks ago my internet connection was cut off - completely. All we had done was change our tariff which my provider suggested in the first place, saying they could save us money. Who would turn down an offer like that? I should have know it was too goo to be true! Anyway it has taken much foot-stamping, shrieking and at one point sobbing on the phone to finally find get re-instated earlier this week. So five lengthy phone calls, one engineer visit, one e-mail to the managing director of said company and the generosity of friends who let me log on to their providers from time to time, I am finally back on line. Have I missed it? Absolutely! More than I could have imagined. It has also been hugely inconvenient especially as I have a book due out on June 3rd and have been trying to arrange promotional work with my publishers. But on the positive side I have realised, (not that I didn't really know it), how much time the internet can steal from your life so I am resolved to be more disciplined upon it's return.

The other bad bit is that my husband and I have succumed to a dreaded flu-type virus. This is especially irritating as we've managed the whole winter without so much as a sniffle between us. He couldn't go to the Malvern Flower Show with me last Thursday and look what he missed:-

This stand of tulips was magnificent

And I absolutely loved this boat filled with agapanthus

This show garden of a dilapidated boat-house was incredibly authentic looking
I loved the soft planting in this particular show garden
I've been to all of the Royal Horticultural Society shows and the wonderful thing is that they all have a completely different feel to them. But, being a country girl at heart, I think Malvern is one of my favourites. Yes it can be wet and windy and cold because it is early in the season but you can't beat that drive through beautiful, verdant English countryside before you reach the Three Counties Showground with the majestic Malvern Hills in the background. If you've never been I really recommend a visit next year.
Anyway two days' later I came down with the flu too and we've had to cancel all sorts of things.

Have we been feeling sorry for ourselves? Just a bit!

But in the middle of all of this look what arrived on my doorstep

My first two proper copies of Last Chance Angel and I can't tell you how thrilled I am with it. I've had so many nice comments about the cover and my first review which is always a bit nerve-wracking but it was amazing.

'Poignant, quirky, sometimes funny and sometimes sad.
A lovely read.'
What author wouldn't want a review like that? It makes all of the hard work worthwhile. If you'd like to read the review in full and find out about other books log on to
Then, as if that wasn't brilliant enough in itself, I heard that a French Canadian publisher has bought the rights for the French speaking world so Last Chance Angel will be being published in Canada sometime in 2014. I've always wanted to go to Canada. Maybe now I have an excuse!
Finally, because I've been confined to barracks, I've had loads of time to look out of the window at my garden. We've been visited by a thrush for the first time in years and my Angelique tulips have been a real tonic. Here they are and I hope your week to come will be more up than down. Thank-you so much for reading.