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The Manorbier Castle Chronicles

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My husband developed violet and allergic reactions to our cottage in the village of Manorbier; he is totally allergic to it: excema eruptions, asthma attacks, streaming eyes and sneezing fits. So we had no other recourse than to quit Manorbier, until the damp spores can be eliminated, and return to the republic of London. I left with a heavy heart in bright sunshine but as we approached the metropolis my heart lightened and my pulse quickened.

It begs the question really does one want to be an Urban sybarite or rustic stoic? Be in the countryside, a tad bored or mildly stressed in the city. In the wilderness years when I lived on my Pennine farm house for five years, where I never even grew a carrot, which is now been taken over by zombies; (a silly horror movie is set there) I longed for the grimy streets of London, paved, (metaphorically) with gold, as the republic does provide many more work opportunities, than West Yorks or down in south west wales for that matter; now that courses have hit the stone flagged floor, and the onset of a severe winter does not auger well.

We found our flat coated in dust . The floor in the library had been sanded, before, it appears, the newly painted walls had been allowed to dry, and were pulverized, an impasto of dust had stuck to the paintwork too, not to mention 3000 dusty books . The decorator had the cheek to ring and ask if we were satisfied with work.

Meantime my sons Tarquin and Julian had turned place into a mini sports complex, under auspices of their kind nana. Ping pong on the dinning room table, chess on the computer, racing on the telly, the kitchen walls were papered with the sports pages, the league foot ball tables and they were studying the form on the turf instead of studying the forms of French verbs. Luckily I had hid the footballs but the oranges had been consigned to under arm bowling. Lucky I hid all the Staffordshire figurines too, lest they be lined up as a shooting gallery. There was a pervading smell of damp rugby socks and 'Talk Sport' at full blast. I did not know whether to shout or cry.

Julian having had a visit from a Falconer at his school, is intent on taking up falconry and poring over bird books. If Julian had been a squire at the castle 700 years ago that might have been easier to fix up, rather that in the local park, though I have seen falconers in bowler hats outside the leviathan Rogers building at Hyde park, exterminating the pigeons and they are a menace. Our conservatory is caked with pigeon shit and down the spiral stairs into the garden, I am sure we will get avian flu; so it might be providential if we have a falconer in the family, because I tried spikes onto which I hoped the insalubrious feathered enemies would impale themselves and scores of bad c.ds spinning on string would not make them fly away not even the Robbie Williams disc scared them away.

After shaking the dust off my mail I opened all the stiff white envelopes (consigning the buff ones to the waste paper basket) and I found an exhibition coming up at the Royal Academy of Turner, Gainsborough and Constable, which has sparked an interest in the Constable hanging on our wall, bought by my great grand mother Dame Edith. Some girls came to collect Hampstead Heath under rain filled skies in order to photograph it professionally . They forgot bubble wrap, so they had to make do with wrapping their pashmina shawls around the painting and securing it with a piece of old rope.

My grandfather was fond of referring to the Titanic as 'that unfortunate little boating incident'; he stressed that "The Astors behaved terribly well." My friend Sam came round and on admiring Julian's big felt tip drawing of the Titianic, blithely remarked that her great grandfather Lord Astor had suffered a freezing watery death while his new young pregnant wife rowed away on the life boat, he left 26 million to his eldest son and 5 million to Sam's 10 year old grandmother, still a considerable sum then.

Got call from Dame Emily, who is still convinced the last fiction course can run with just ONE writer from the Telegraph, "well there's me too." But with so many writer's retreats and courses in Morocco, Spain, stately homes, hotels, uni's and even in the Guardian offices, I have given up the ghost. And Emily is already dreaming up schemes for next year, foraging for free food, concerts, opera promenades, flying ballet squads, (god knows what they are), a scent garden and perfumery, pop up restaurants in the solar, gilding classes and my head starts to swim, I will be more enthusiastic when spring comes.

I have just had an email from a Constable expert, who is curating the R.A show , who pronounced it a pastiche, thus dashing my dreams of the Heath going under the hammer for 20 million and of our family buying our very own Tuscan hill top castle but I can at least be in the shadow of Manorbier in my tiny cottage....if we can get rid of the damp spores.