X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Diary

Diary

8 December 2012

9:00 AM

8 December 2012

9:00 AM

Finding an outfit for a wedding is a doddle compared with finding one for an investiture and I wonder how sensible it was to buy my hat first. I love hats. My mother was a dressmaker and designer and she also made hats and wore them with style and aplomb, in the days when women never went hatless, even just to go shopping. When I was a child she embarrassed me beyond endurance when turning up at school events in one of her rakish creations. I remember the Christmas play and a small black felt number worn jauntily on one side of her head. It had protruding bright turquoise feathers and a turquoise satin slash. Worse was the one that turned up at sports day. That had cherries dangling from it and a sort of ribbon pineapple atop. Well, my investiture hat is the most outrageously hatty one I have ever worn, and I hope my daughters are not mortified by it. Meanwhile, I don’t yet have the rest of the outfit. My scarlet hat with scarlet and black feathers is terrific, but probably not on its own.

I wish it were possible to say something to the Queen instead of just answering her question. I would use my allotted 30 seconds of her time, on the day, to say ‘Thank you’, not for the pretty insignia she has just pinned onto my as yet unchosen garment, but for being there, being our ‘rock’. I remember her not being there as Queen, and then her Coronation, very well, but I was only ten. For my whole adult life and more, she has been a force for good — steadying, reliable, faultless and exemplary. I admire her and am amazed by her. She has never put a foot wrong, she is — as demonstrated by her recent James Bond antics — a thoroughly Good Egg, and I am frankly terrified of her. So while I do want to say ‘Thank you for being our rock’, I bet I don’t have the nerve.

[Alt-Text]


I have lived in this mainly 18th-century Cotswold farmhouse for 21 years and it is home to an extraordinary accumulation of stuff and even more memories. But it is time to move on, and let it give out its feeling of calm, light and geniality to another family.  So although I will miss the 450 cherry trees, the moorhens, the carpets of snowdrops, fritillary meadow and nesting barn owls, as well as the safe feeling the house itself has always given me, I am not as sad as I thought I might be on leaving. Next spring, I will be in an even older but smaller farmhouse, in north Norfolk. There is the river Glaven at the end of the meadow, nesting barn owls again, kingfishers, and a protected wildflower pasture. The house has even more odd levels, attics, small staircases and nooks and crannies than this one, but it is just as friendly, light and welcoming. Some potential buyers came round here three and even four times, dithering about. I know within five minutes if I want to live in a house, guided entirely by feeling. It was probably within two that I knew the Norfolk one was waiting to accept me.

Writing books is what I do and love to do and writers do not retire, even if occasionally they claim they just have. Only Iris Murdoch really gave up but that was because she recognised that Alzheimer’s had finally won the battle. The late, wholly good and delightful Maeve Binchy claimed to have finished writing and even sent her friends a specially designed postcard of herself lying on a beach having a pedicure while being served with cocktails. She didn’t stick to it though. Philip Roth says he’s done but we’re all keeping an eye on him. I have ideas for books of every sort queuing up into a future I cannot possibly live to see. The whole business gets more and more exciting and stimulating, which is why bank managers and accountants and the like cannot get their heads round our sort. ‘Why do you want to go on working?’ they cry. ‘Take your pension and sit in the sun.’ But that’s the quickest way to an early grave.

Moving house after 21 years is a business and a half, part physical labour and the hire of skips, part shredding the bank statements of decades ago. And part looking back — to small children, now grown up, racing about the fields, beloved dogs long gone to the great kennel in the sky, past Christmas trees, floods and snow, and escaped ponies. I walked round the house late one night, feeling the letting-go badly. But the house said to me, ‘I’ve given you all I have for over 20 years. Now it’s time for me to give it to someone else. So it goes on. You are going to a house which has given itself to others since the 16th century. Now it’s your turn.’
I felt better.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close