Apart from being a crash course back into my own over-busy life, coming home from the sunny Languedoc to sunny Britain has been full of treats. One is seeing all my special people again. Another is driving today with B through the Durham Dales under a Turner sky, the car just about brushing the full green hedgerows that are now looping urgently onto the narrow roads.
Everything today seems so very English, superbly English. We stop for coffee and sandwiches at Eggleston Hall (recent location for that rather surreal Ladettes to Ladies TV Programme with its quaintly old fashioned air). I wonder briefly whether I’m lady enough to eat their smoked salmon sandwiches.
And on to the Eggleston Hall Gardens, immaculately laid out, nurtured, and lined up in the original walled garden of the Hall. We know from experience that plants we buy here are sturdy and survive, so we buy a dark red carnation plant for my back yard where I sit and read and sit and write. It’s a plant- filled suntrap and less windy than the gardens themselves. At Eggleston I look longingly at bright, bold lupins - my favourite garden flowers - but they are forbidden treats. Try as we may we cannot make them thrive here. Could be slugs, but we don’t really know.
This week I’ll also go plant hunting to Whitworth Hall Gardens , very near here. The walled garden there, restored by horticulturalists who know what they’re doing, is very close to my heart. In its prime historical (imagined) state it plays an important role in my historical novel Honesty’s Daughter. In fact I wrote much of the novel in the Hall itself and my artist friend Fiona Naughton painted pictures of the Hall and garden (see here) which were shown at the launch.
But with my return, life is so busy that I’m still waiting for a space to get down to the new novel which powered on so well in France. There is other work to do, as well as some good events. This Thursday I’m at Fenwick Newcastle for the launch of the paperback of Sandie Shaw and the Millionth Marvell Cooker (12.30. If you are around do call by …) Then on for signings at Durham WHSmith and Bishop Auckland WHSmith. Then on Friday I will be doing signings at the fabulous Metro Centre in Waterstones and WHSmith. I have this feeling that there’ll be always something there to remind me of the lovely Sandie. I’m looking forward to spending time in these bookshops where I know, having met some of them , that the booksellers are rather – no, very - special.
Before I forget, if you like short stories, I have this rather quirky one in next Sunday’s Express magazine. It’s about a old Dormobile that … well, just read it and see! There are so few outlets for short stories these days that it will be lovely to see this one there in S Magazine.
But really, really I am dying to get back to the France that now has to reside inside my head. The Maison d’Estella along with Star, and Modeste and Tib are all crying out for attention from the pages of my manuscript which is sitting in its special place on my upstairs desk….