When there are no visitors about I find myself looking closely at the Rembrandt self-portrait we have on display at Buckland Abbey. I can almost feel the way the painter felt as he added touches of colour to the canvas, working away in his studio, a man who had to deal with a lot of sadness in his life as did so many of those painters of old.  Before I took up writing, I did try my hand at painting but it wasn’t to be. I love the uninhibited way my little granddaughter splashes paint on a piece of paper, tongue out in concentration and I have to say some of her offerings could find a place in some of the modern galleries with all sorts of hidden meanings being discovered. Or am I being cynical?

Three days away in the New Forest based at Lyndhurst.  Lovely sunny weather for visits to NT properties at Mottisfont, Uppark and Kingston Lacy. All very interesting and different properties, the rose gardens at Mottisfont at their spectacular best, the scents heady. I can just imagine the ladies of old taking a ‘turn’ round the garden. Oh for that gentle pace of life.  Winchester was a delight too and I never cease to be amazed at the skill of those craftsmen shown at its best in the cathedral whose soaring arches really do take your breath away. Peering at the 12th century illuminated bible, I leaned too close and banged my head on the glass – no harm done and as the lady overseeing it explained with a smile, people do it all the time.  Trust me to join them!

A lovely birthday – lunch with my granddaughter Meg and then Guys and Dolls at the theatre, a lively production that had my feet tapping.  I have booked for Swanwick Writers’ Week up in Derbyshire in August. It’s a great week, full on with lots of interesting talks and workshops. It doesn’t matter how long you have been writing and how many books you may have had published, you can always pick up something from it and it’s a delight to talk to other writers. I hope I can pass on some of my own continued enthusiasm for writing to the newcomers.