THE BLOG

Manorbier Castle Chronicles

30/01/2013 16:17 GMT | Updated 01/04/2013 10:12 BST

Dame Emily is cleaning up the castle and evicting waxworks of a noble family; a forlorn group, swathed in Biblical robes like a nativity that has long lost its sale-by date, to make room for a swanky office in the Norman guard room. Meanwhile I have moved house and it is liberating, all the more, if you do so every five years; stops you stagnating. Contrary to most I love moving and throwing out a lot of clobber; recycling it, makes one feel vaguely virtuous. I often wonder where my frayed summer frocks might end up, who will be wearing my Kenzo linen jacket?. The redoubtable Tim Mackintosh Smith, who has lived in Sana for 30 years and continues to do so braving the gun fire and bombing, once saw a Yemeni boy wearing his old school jacket. Tim ran up to the boy and before he could raise his kalashnikoff, (boys carry them in this town), pulled back his collar and was astonished to find his name tape sewn in by nanny all those years ago.

After ten years we have returned to our little Ithaca, a terraced house in Kensal Green. For five years we fought our battles with the elements, floods and an almost supernatural fire that burnt our Pennine cottage down, and were preyed upon by ghosts, witches and warlocks.

Another five years in 'Rotting Hill" was the journey home; albeit only up the road, over the whirlpools of the Grove, where sirens wailed; not the ones that lured sailors to wreck their boats on the rocks but the old bill chasing dealers with their stashes of rock crystal meth and crack. Penelope's suitors were in the guise of our sitting tenants who drank the cellar dry. What a difference a mile can make. Notting hill has rapidly gone down hill, in essence, it's just a property portfolio, where private affluence and pubic squalor sit side by side most uncomfortably and cause much tension.

Up in Kensal Green it is a different story, Betjemanesque but not exactly suburban more sophistiburbanite. Many of the Hill tribes have moved up to 'north notting hill', having been pushed out by plutocrats and oligarchs.

There are no high rise council estates here, only low rise workers cottages, that allow for more sunshine and a better quality of light, and there is no noise or air pollution. You feel less the weight of the city up on the hill beside the vast cemetery of crumbling mausoleums and ancient Yew trees.

Shops are all local, not franchised: butchers, bakers, ironmongers, aconite dealers, glass stainers, stone masons and Retrouvious, the architectural reclaim emporium. The butchers has a gory display of offal, row upon row of skinned pigs heads and trotters which made my toes curl as I timidly bought chicken breasts while other customers ordered 'soft chicken' 26 of'em in a pack; (later, on consulting Larousse I discovered this is force meat,)

I could go on about the joys of our local cinema club, Lexi (however we could not muster Les Miserables ), the Persian restaurant, with in-house parrots, who wolf whistle at all the pretty ladies. No mean side salads here, but a veritable orchard and herb garden flowering with mint and basil and a doorstep of sheeps cheese while my boys were stunned into rare silence when an acreage of chicken and rice flavoured with pomegranite seeds were placed before them.

The nearest tube is the Bakerloo line, that carries me to the hallowed portals of the London library in a record 20 minutes, from notting hill on a good day, the best part of an hour.

I don't miss Portobello Road in the least with its flotillas of tourists drifting aimlessly into All Saints, Starbucks and catch-penny stores of fripperies.

In the boreal conditions I was compelled to pull out a full length mink which belonged to Dame Emily's Grandma, Lady Dunsany whose husband was affectionately known as Lord 'Insany' . Is it is justified? Shall I form the 'dangerous clothes club? and will the pelt be pelted with eggs? Contrary to what I expected, the mink attracts licentious looks, maybe because it resonates some atavistic primal pull from prehistoric times when fur was the only fashionable option, or a more prosaic explanation could be that I look like a top end of the market harlot. However the real secret to wearing a mink is either turn it inside out or to have it expertly shorn by a furrier. You would never know it was mink, it feels like the finest velvet or astrakhan. So if the mink is too riskee, then my shahtoosh is worse, meaning 'king of wools' in Persian. My friend and former neighbour, a therapist and 'laughter facilitator' frowned at the shawl, which is woven from the down hair of Tibetan antelope, now an endangered species. "Don't you know they are illegal?" she said imperiously in her Countess tone of voice, while liberally pouring tabasco over her lawn to deter squirrels from digging it up. I niavely thought that the goats were not hunted but that fluff from their testicles caught on thistles had been gathered by monks to make the shawl, so fine it threads through my wedding ring. However my sartorial dilemma has been resolved as I swapped two of my etchings of a Yemeni mosque for a red Harris tweed coat expertly cut and tailored by Selina Blow, a latterday Artemis of great talent and flair.