In April this year, I spent eight days at the Monastery of St Catherine’s in southern Sinai. There were early mornings in church, listening to the chanting monks and watching the light gradually increase until it burst through the topmost windows; sessions in the magnificent new Library, looking at ancient manuscripts with the Librarian, Father Justin; and a very hot… Read more
I am in uncharted territory, writing my first novel. The story, or rather it’s setting, has been in my head since April 2010, when the eruption of an Icelandic volcano grounded all air traffic for several days. This meant that the family and I were stuck in in the beautiful resort of Taba on the Red Sea, and the children… Read more
A great moment: signing my name in the book which records the Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature. I’m using Byron’s pen, although I doubt it was the one he used to write Don Juan. It’s very thin, with gold filigree work on it. I suspect it was a present from one of his girlfriends.
I delivered the biography of Elizabeth Jane Howard last week ago – always a nice feeling, but I shall miss her. She was funny and courageous and loyal, dramatically impulsive and romantic, and at the same time very down to earth and practical. A better chooser of friends than she was of men, and a better writer than she’s often given credit… Read more
Jane used to compare the experience of writing a novel to rowing a small boat across the Atlantic. You set off to the cheers of friends and well-wishers, but soon you’re all alone in an immensity of sea. The place you left is a long way away. The land you hope to reach is not even a dot on the… Read more
This photo of Paddy was taken in 1946 by Joan Eyres-Monsell, whom he later married. It’s my favourite photo of him. At this point he has never published a book and has little more than the clothes on his back, and yet the joy and confidence just pour off him.
It never occurred to me that trout might eat mice but sometimes they do… In the forests of North America and New Zealand, an abundance of certain seeds leads to a huge rise in the mouse population; and when that food source dries up, the mice have to migrate – sometimes swimming across rivers to find new territories to colonise…. Read more
The skies over London have been amazing recently. I took this on 27 August – shame about the washing lines but I couldn’t frame the rainbow any better
On 16 July this year, Antony and I were made Doctors of the University of York – a very happy day, and a very proud one too. In my speech to the congregation, I took the opportunity to pay tribute to my Oxford tutor Ann Wordsworth, who died two years ago. ‘This is such an honour. I would like to thank… Read more
Elizabeth Jane Howard died a year ago tomorrow. It was sad that she didn’t enjoy the success of the final Cazalet novel, All Change, for a bit longer but after the death of her brother Colin in December 2013, she didn’t want to go on. She died in her own pretty room with her daughter nearby – just slipped away,… Read more