Castle Howard and swimming in the Cam – not me yet

Whistle up to Castle Howard for a number of jobs (fittingly as my little book on Vanbrugh is off to the press this week, published in October) which is always a pleasure and it looks especially radiant in the hazy weather. Discuss Castle Howard’s servants and where they lived with the curator Christopher Ridgway and afterwards have tea and a chat with Simon Howard who shows me the new rooms which they have opened at Castle Howard on the first floor, used for the filming of Brideshead Revisited (the original 18th century interiors burnt out in the fire of 1940). It is so exciting being able to look down on the Great Hall from above for the first time, and the rooms sets make me feel rather excited about the seeing the film which comes out in October.

Dog walking takes us out to Granchester Meadows where we spot yet more friends who have taken up wild swimming – I was quite tempted for the first time. Also down to Surrey to take tea with my grandfather on his 95th birthday – a very early start means that I got there in good time, having listening to a large chunk of On Cold Mountain in taped book form, tucked into a hearty breakfast prepared by brother-in-law; my grandfather smiled benignly through all his cards and recognised all the senders with a remark or two.

I spent quite a lot of my teens in their company as I liked escaping the world and helping out on the farm, and he must, as I do very much, miss the excellent company of grandmother. He used to be a rather forbidding dinner table conversationalist, very hot on politics and issues of taxation. I am rather coming round to his viewpoint that we are all rather over taxed.

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