This week I have been lucky enough to visit two beautiful English towns on consecutive days. On Thursday morning, in blinding sunshine, I drove my daughter to Stamford in Lincolnshire.
The town has been used as a backdrop for period costume dramas such as Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice.
For a time my friend Carol used to live in Stamford and we would meet up for lunch and a catch-up. My daughter had a day's work experience arranged at the local auctioneer's and, in an effort to get down to some uninterrupted work, I opted to take her, pick up the clocks we had dropped off earlier in January and then settle in at the local library. It worked a treat, much better than I expected. Despite there being a story-telling session in the children's space directly behind me I plunged into my story and got loads done. I'm actually thinking of taking myself to the local library so that I can avoid all of those domestic distractions which crop up when you work from home.
By lunchtime the weather had changed dramatically and as I browsed the shops looking for a birthday present, fat flakes of snow tumbled from the sky. It was the kind of snow which clings to your eyelashes and blankets your clothes as you walk. But, whatever the weather, Stamford is a gem, beautiful buildings, the renowned George Hotel, little cobbled streets...
...the graceful river Welland and lots of charming, independent shops. In 2013 a survey in the Sunday Times rated Stamford as the best place to live and it's easy to see why.
On Friday, the snow fortunately melting, I took a trip to Royal Leamington Spa. It was one of my oldest friend's birthdays. We hadn't seen each for months and it was time to put work aside and celebrate. Cathy and I have known each other for over forty years. We met as bewildered eleven year olds on our first day at boarding school and, bar a brief gap when our lives went in different directions, we have remained in touch ever since. We had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant and caught up on each other's news. Leamington too is beautiful but in a very different way. Its roads are wider, straighter, airier and tree lined, its architecture a delight of Georgian sophistication.
I have visited Stamford and Leamington many times over the years. But what adds to my love of them both is the fact that I can't think of Leamington without Cathy or Stamford without Carol; of laughter shared and tears dried, of children growing, difficulties weathered and triumphs toasted. Two lovely towns, two amazing friends inextricably linked.
Thank-you for reading, have a lovely week and here is one last photograph of Stamford with the snow beginning to fall.