The snowy header has finally been put away but expect to see it again next year because it is one of my favourites, describing perfectly the place where I live. As do the hills and woods and fields and flowers...I should set up a gallery page to keep the pics I have used. This winter has brought real snow, hoary frosts and recently three long days of howling wind but in the main it has been mild and wet and it now feels like spring. The blossom is appearing earlier than ever on my English Cherry but further snow would not be a great surprise especially now that I have a new Spring header! I really should spend more time in the garden:snowdrops and crocuses are in flower, the daffodils are half way there and hellebores drip limpid green in the soft rain. Unfortunately the bantams are very attracted to both crocus and to iris shoots which are already looking henpecked. Every day now I am checking the coop anticipating a new laying season and feeling a little guilty that I don't get up earlier to give them a full quota of daylight. We have had leeks all winter but I was late putting in the parsnips and a third lot of beetroot and I am keen to see what is going on beneath the surface - the winter leaves are not giving a lot away! And soon it will be time to plant the bed again, and then, and then and then.....
I was collared for an interview in our local paper recently and thought I would recycle it, using my edits rather than theirs, and the odd correction too! I'd love to hear some of your answers..... Ignore what you’re doing now - if you could do any job in the world, what would it be and why?
I would love to be a successful writer or a painter. To know that your works on Earth will outlive you must be awesome!
Of all the places you’ve been in your life, which would you recommend to a stranger?
I’m not a great traveller and don’t stray too far from home but there are so many beautiful places in the UK . One of my favourite places is on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales – Manorbier Castle, the location for Cair Paravel in the recent film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We too have experienced some magical times there and I have been going back for over thirty years.
If you could pass one new law tomorrow, what would it be and why?
Controversially, I believe everyone’s DNA should be on a data base. Every time an innocent person is murdered or a child is abducted, time is wasted and further lives are endangered. It is a small price to pay. (Just read 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' which does raise a whole lot of other issues and I recommend if you are interested in science and not sick!) You can invite three people - living or dead, from any period - round for dinner.
Well first I would invite them separately and get their undivided attention!
Winston Churchill I would like to meet in his garden at Chartwell. We could potter about looking at plants, visit his studio and see his latest paintings, then take a dip in his lake before tea.
David Cameron – I have quite a lot to say to him!
Dustin Hoffman – I love cinema but don’t think I couldn’t trust Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson. I am sure that Dustin would be a charming dinner companion and I suspect he has hidden depths.......!
If you were stuck on Death Row, what would you pick for your final meal?
I really don’t think I could eat a thing! (This was a weird one wasn't it?)
And if you could write your own epitaph or come up with famous last words in advance, what would you pick?
It has been a beautiful struggle.
If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
I would like to be able to travel timelessly to any destination at will. I am a useless traveller and it would be cool to pop over to Boston for an afternoon to catch up with friends and be home again in time for tea! (friends in Boston please note!)
How do you relax?
Walking. After a couple of miles all the adrenalin is dissipated and everything settles into place. What’s your greatest fear?
Almost too great to name is every mother’s fear that their child die before them. I have the utmost respect for people who can carry on living after tragedy strikes.
What was the last little treat you bought for yourself, or someone else?
I love snow and frost but hate being cold so bought myself a duvet coat – warm as toast. (see my xmas blog)
If you had to give up something tomorrow, what would you find it hardest to live without?
As above – I’d hate to have to turn the heating down, despite worries about Global Warming.
What’s the most important lesson that life has taught you so far?
Samuel Johnson wrote of a friend after his death 'How much soever I valued him, I now wish that I had valued him more.' Sad but so true.
If you could leap forward to the year 2050, what would you expect, or hope, to find there?
My grandchildren alive and well and happy in a brave new world.
Favourite films of all time and why?U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005) – Carmen, my favourite opera, set in a South African township – you never saw a sassier Carmen!
DIVA (1981) French cult thriller. American opera singer Wilhelmenia Fernandez makes this a cult movie worth seeking out.
Empire of the Sun ( 1983) Speilberg masterpiece, again with a beautiful soundtrack. Iconic coming of age story, set against the backdrop of war in the Far East. Triumph over adversity, wonderful cinematography. (can't wait to watch this with my grandson)
Favourite books of all time and why?
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Set in India between 1947 -1977. Heart warming and heartbreaking. If you read just one book this has to be it, all human life is here.
The Constant Gardener (the book is much better than the film). John LeCarre gets better and better. Third World poverty and corporate greed challenged by the most unlikely and most English of heroes. Leaves an aftertaste. (someone else I'd love to have dinner with!)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1854, the original anti slavery tract influenced millions, fuelled abolition of slavery in US and the American Civil War. I read it when I was about 11 and it influenced me hugely. The book is now considered to be somewhat politically incorrect but it has to be read as a product of its time. The b's didn't print my film or book recommendations!)
Favourite albums/songs of all time and why?
Would have to include the Stones – Brown Sugar to remind me of Saturday nights dancing way back when. Definitely Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks - I rocked my babies to sleep to it. And Fleetwood Mac, Thunder Only Happens When it’s Raining, for the best of times and the worst of times and everything that might have been...
Websites you use/value the most.
Jasperfforde.com is the completely ape website of the author – I am a huge fan of his Thursday Next series.
Woody’s at Apsley Lock – simple, yummy, veggie run by a great bunch of people.
Gatsby – I’ve never had a less than great meal there with really good service, a glamorous eaterie. Under The Rex, our favourite cinema.
Have you got a favourite shop?
Our local Pet Shop – they never complain when my grandsons spend half an hour browsing the pets and we only buy a dog chew!
You’re taking friends or family out for the day. What’s your local recommendation?
Walk the Gade valley from Two Waters to the source, the location of which changes with the seasons so there is always a surprise. Wear your wellies and paddle in our own clear chalk stream as you explore.
What’s your best kept entertainment or social life secret, or guilty pleasure?
Keeping Pekin bantams. It’s getting quite trendy but we’ve had them for over 30 years now and when we started it was an old man’s game. They have the run of the garden, look pretty and keep us in eggs for most of the year.
Which person in the public eye would you most like to meet and why?
Nelson Mandela. I think you could be disappointed by many famous people in the flesh but he strikes me as a real gentleman who would open up, talk and entertain. And I am totally in awe of him. Dinner would be nice.............(Gosh, I hadn't realised there are so many men I want to eat out with and probably never will......)
What do you go out of your way to avoid? Axolotls – I have to turn away and speed past them in the Reptile house at the zoo while my grandsons linger, fascinated. Really spooky, they freak me out! Like Gollum. (Also not included, why ever not?)
Always leave them laughing - so please tell us a joke.
What do snowmen eat for breakfast? Snowflakes! (From my grandson as I can never remember jokes, but sadly not published.)