I am no longer the voracious read-everything-that-comes-before-me. I’ve-started-so-I’ll-finish gobbler of books that I was in earlier days. I tend to the view now that life is too short to waste time on things I’m not really enjoying, and so I’m very liable to give a book the heave-ho if I come upon a sticky patch.

I don’t want to read anything distressing so there’s a whole raft of subjets that I avoid. I don’t read about the holocaust, Northern Ireland, refugees, people trafficking, etc. This is very feeble and I don’t recommend it but I feel there’s enough difficulty in my life without taking any more on board.

I often read in the night when I can’t sleep and then your requirements are very specific. You want it to be interesting enough to pass the time, but basically you want it to send you to sleep. It needs to be technically smoothly written with no grammar, spelling or character defects of the author (snobbishness, for example, or if it’s a novel set in Regency times among the aristocracy, getting the etiquette or people’s titles wrong.) These defects will cause me to have a rant, which definitely wakes you up! So I read Georgette Heyer, P J Woodhouse, E F Benson, and some detective novels (but nothing too grisly.)

Then there’s some works that I re-read every ten years or so. These include all of Jane Austen, most of Anthony Trollope, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin, J R R Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, Raymond Chandler (for the metaphors.)

I have a category that I call Double Star, which means that I will read it very fast as usual, and then on finishing it I will immediately reread it more slowly. These include Birdsing by Sebastian Faulks; the Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst, Falling by Ian McEwan, A Map of he World by Jame Smiley.

My cousin in Canada, Sheena, has sent me a wonderful book called Love of Country by Madelaine Bunting about her fascination with the mythical North and a journey she undertook through the Outer Hebrides.

When we used to go to the South of France with the caravan, tents and 3 or five children if we took Darren and Kerri, my stepchildren, we thoroughly enjoyed the food, the wine and the stimulating conversation taking place as the sun went down, leaving the beach almost empty. But eventually we would tire of continual blue skies

I am normally quite confident about my writing. I am working on a small scale; doing a miniature, perhaps rather than the full scale portrait others can attempt more successfully. I believe people enjoy them. But sometimes you chance upon some piece that is accomplished with such style and elegance that it makes you wish you had written that, and that your work is shoddy in comparison. You think, What is the point? And you feel like laying down your pen.

NB My cousin and I have attachments to the North and we have undertaken tours of the Hebrides. Perhaps people who have not done these things would not find the book so easy to identify with.

The song in our hearts is still ‘North!’


We’ve just had a lovely caravan holiday in the Cotswolds with our daughters and their families.

In the past we were frequently fortunate with our holiday weather, but slightly less so in recent years. However this time our famous luck did not dessert us and the entire fortnight was one stretch of glorious sunshine, clear blue skies, warm, just wonderful. We are all as brown as berries.

We ate together in the early evening, with tables pushed together and ‘about 50 chairs ‘ as the camp manager (exaggerating slightly!) described it. A different family took charge of and provided the evening meal, which was often cooked in our caravan equipment. (The others were in tents.) We ate simple, easy food. We had a leisurely and full breakfast. We had some lunches and coffees out.

It was lovely going out in large groups, but we also split up, sometimes one couple would take all the children. We went out with different combinations of people and also had some quiet days to ourselves. Our friends from Oxford came out and met us for lunch. John’s sister lives nearby so we met her several times, and our children and their families went to dinner at their cousin’s.

The sites were busy at weekends, quieter through the weeks. Our idea of a busy site is ourselves and down the other end of the caravan site, two other families, so our notions of the ideal are never going to be satisfied, but people are friendly and there is always someone to lend a hand with an awning not previously erected, or lend a vital piece of equipment. A little boy climbed into our caravan one day and was absolutely horrified to be met by us instead of his parents, and then became terribly confused and lost, so we had to lead him (only next door) by the hand and explain to him that he had the wrong caravan, but he regarded us with disfavour thereafter!

The Cotswolds are lovely – just one beautiful village after another, small fields, hedgerows full of wild flowers, ancient trees. The source of the Thames is here (allegedly.) There is much to be said in favour of Brits holidaying at home. Our country is beautiful and it is richly diverse (by which I mean its habitat and flora and fauna are very different within a small area.) Our food is good. People speak English. There’s no queuing for taxis, or hanging about at airports. It’s also much cheaper – no air fare or ferry crossing, no expensive foreign insurance. We have history – from Stone Henge and Skara Brae, through mediaeval times when Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries, through the Stewarts when the Church of England was created down to the World Wars and more recent history. We have fantastic architecture.

I recommend the Cotswolds.


We’ve been on our travels with our caravan throughout the UK. We had a few adventures with the caravan which I won’t bore you with (all solved eventually by our hero.) The caravan is very comfortable and we like using it.

Our first stop was on Derwentwater in the Lake District which, save for some owls was the quietest site I have ever visited. Our previous stopover which was at Tebay at Westmorland has ceased to be a caravan site which we were rather disgruntled about (no-one asked us!) but this site, although pleasant is too far from the M6 for us to use frequently, We explored Keswick which is an attractive town, and also visited the house where William Wordsworth grew up which is a very elegant and attractive Georgian house in Cockermouth, and Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where he lived. which was dank, dreary and horrible. I personally thought Wordsworth was an indifferent poet. He was Poet laureate for a number of years, accepting a quite substantial payment for his services and never wrote a single poem as laureate. We visited the coastal towns of Maryport and Workington but did not find them attractive. There is no doubt that that the Lake District is a lovely place (each lake and valley is quite different) with some good-looking towns and villages, but I can never get used to how parts that appear to be fairly remote are invariably teeming with bands of walkers lurking behind every tree.

We then installed the caravan on the Edinburgh site. One does not expect quietness on a city site, and this park down in Granton near the river was convenient(an area of Edinburgh I did not know at all) but the whole of the North part of the city must be severely affected by aircraft noise. We were on the flightpath of incoming aircraft I think – we had some quite windy nights and we could hear their brakes squealing and became quite anxious on their behalf. I thought aircraft were halted between the hours of midnight and 6 am but this was certainly not the case here where they were still coming staggering home at 2 am and started up again at 4.30.

We visited Joanna and attended her birthday party, and spent a few pleasant days in Glasgow, and visited my brother in Fife, crossing over the new road bridge to come back in to Edinburgh. It is slightly disorienting to revisit a city which was once yours but is no longer. You think you know it well and in part you do, but you can suddenly find yourself ‘lost’ in redeveloped areas. It is fun to be a tourist though.

We took a bus tour on an open-topped bus and were surprised how close together the famous buildings were. Edinburgh is a beautiful city.

We toured Britannia. It is surprisingly modest and attractive. The queen’s choice of furniture and soft furnishings, while not fashionable (it was fitted out in the fifties) was elegant and could have been lived in quite comfortably today. The ship was very well adapted for sightseers and good provision was made for disabled access. Considering the queen’s long service, her age and her reputed enjoyment of the vessel, plus the use the Government made of Britannia, it seems very churlish and short-sighted of Blair’s government that he did not prolong the ship’s life while the queen lived. I felt however that the accommodation provided for ratings was disgraceful, and that in a 20th century ship it should have been possible to provide a comfortable private space, albeit small, for everyone.

We visited the town where I was born in Angus from Edinburgh, but I will write about that separately. We visited friends while here and met friends in Edinburgh. Alexandra came through in the train and we showed her the university area and the different sections of the city. We went with her to Holyrood Palace where we both visited the Palace and saw an exhibition of Canaletto paintings bought in a job lot by George III. They were not perhaps the artist’s finest, but a Canaletto is not to be sneezed at! We had lunch here.

And so we left Edinburgh and came down the East Coast road to Berwick on Tweed. The site faced the sea. We looked at Berwick and then drove to Kelso. We also visited Floors Castle, with which I was decidedly unimpressed. It is vast, like Versailles perhaps, (it is in the French style). No-one could possibly require this much accommodation. It was supposedly adapted for wheel chair use but the paths were gravel; there was only one accessible toilet a long distance (over gravel) and the care of visitors did not seem to figure high in their priorities. Also what was available to the public was a series of rooms in one of the needless wings furnished lavishly in a very extravagant French style, with extra-ordinarily elaborate and ugly French furniture. Apparently the castle had been restyled by an American heiress with unlimited funds and very poor taste, part of whose family were French. These rooms although furnished as ballroom, dining room, etc (there were no bedrooms or kitchen on display) had never actually been used for the purposes they were dressed for and one rather got the impression that the owners had decided to benefit from the financial advantages of having visitors and complied with the requirements to the lowest standards, and from their ugly collection of awful furniture had thrown together a couple of rooms. They can keep Floors Castle as far as I’m concerned.

We also visited Lindisfarne which is lovely but was very busy at 10 am and as we returned across the causeway, battalions of buses were fighting their way over.

A long day down the M1 and then, seeking entry to visit our last site, Moreton-in-the- Marsh in the Cotswolds. Here we visited John’s sister and her husband and son, and then took Helen out to lunch in Stow. The next day we visited friends in Iffley in Oxford. (Will write more separately). We chose NOT to visit Highgrove, garden of the Prince of Wales. It cost £150 for 2 people to visit the garden and have lunch, which is daylight robbery. We went instead to Burford, and to a mill that sold throws and tweeds, although we did not buy any(this time.)

So back to our site and then the short journey home where we got here by lunch time.

The weather was mild and often sunny; there were storms but they were mostly throughout the night. We enjoyed our new caravan. It was lovely to see so many friends; and if we didn’t get round to you, I hope we’ll be back in years to come.


We went out the other day to look at caravans and confirm that we didn’t need a new one – but guess what – we decided we did!

Many non-caravanning people do not understand the appeal of caravans and simply regard them as a hazard and nuisance on the road. But a caravan adapted to your needs can provide you with a very comfortable base for your holiday in a safe and attractive environment for between 20 and thirty pounds per night for two people. For this you get a spacious ’emplacement’ with a space for your caravan in the middle and room for your awning on one side and your vehicle on the other.

Caravan sites vary enormously from the spotlessly clean, excessively controlled affair where your caravan has to be parked at an exact angle, with impressively equipped communal kitchen, washing up area, laundry and shower room. Occasionally there is even a bath. On the other hand you can have a windswept field with long grass and a few sheep in it with no facilities at all. When we moved from England to Scotland we stayed on a very peculiar site with rather unsavory people on it. When I opened my bedroom curtains one morning, I discovered my window had been lined up with another caravan’s which was far too near ours and I was afforded an excellent view of its interior which was empty of all furniture apart from a dining chair on which a naked man was seated, strumming on a guitar. We were on another site that same evening. (This is the only caravan site I’ve ever come across which has been like this.)

We have caravanned for 40 years. Your requirements change. We had a 5 berth when we had the children with us. For the past ten years or so we’ve had a 2 berth. Now we’ve bought a 4 berth. This has as well as the usual seating area which can convert into a comfortable double bed, two single bunks which are permanently made up, and which are 4” wider than previously, \and one of which is 6’3” long. This means we do not have the labour of making up the bed twice daily, and I can retire to lie in my bed easing my painful back but still being part of the group; and grandchildren can sleep with us while their parents go out to dinner. This is a new design and should also appeal to families with teenagers.

Awnings which are like large tents attached to the side of caravans and which double the covered floor space have also now improved. They now ‘blow up’ with an electric pump which makes them a lot easier to erect.

Another development over the past ten years has been ‘the mover’ which is a remote control whch will move the caravan forwards. back and sideways without you’re having to humph it.

You can equip your caravan for your personal needs. Book, music, TV all go with you. The caravan will carry your clothes hanging up (although the wardrobe’s miniature dimensions are not one of its best selling points. ) Cooking simple meals is not difficult, and you can always eat out.

You’re very much out in the open air. Lying in your caravan while heavy rain pours down your windows, or on a clear night you can see stars through your roof light, or surviving a thunder storm – these are all enjoyable experiences.

As I made clear in my blog on Norfolk, most other caravanners are helpful and friendly. But occasionally you come across somebody memorably awful. We were, I think, in Belgium one summer and an older British couple parked next to us. We had three children with us and did not have time for prolonged social exchanges. A friendly wave or good morning was as much as we could manage. They invited us for a glass of wine that evening but we declined because we had to supervise the children. Clearly this didn’t suit our neighbours. They terminated the exchanges of waves, good morning etc. We then watched in fascinated horror while they entrapped a different English speaking couple every night. They would lull them into a false sense of security with duff wine. They would then indulge in one long boast : their country house; their flat in town; their glittering careers; the generous salaries they enjoyed; their dining out in famous restaurants; their holidays etc ad nauseum. This was boring and tedious in the extreme, particularly since exactly the same speech was offered night after night. On the last night, before he and we were due to leave the next morning, he was showing his guests out when John said to me (quite loudly), “Oh, Annie. He forgot to tell them that his drive is one mile long.” He looked at us with extreme hostility but said nothing. We left that site at first light and were enjoying croissants and coffee many miles away.




On our recent holiday in Scotland, we had planned to break our return journey at Blair Drummond, and at Berwick on Tweed, and at Cromer in Norfolk. However, events conspired against us. We were coming through Glen Coe, in heavy rain and with equally heavy traffic when one of our caravan tyres blew out. John was able to keep control of the outfit and there was a layby near us, but in such foul weather with poor visibility and fast and heavy traffic on a two lane road, we were obliged to drive to the layby. This proved damaging to the wheel. John was unable to remove the wheel because the layby was on a slope, so we sent for the Green Flag people. They arrived in abut 4o minutes (their service was excellent throughout.) The spare tyre (which in a caravan is stored in a very inaccessible place underneath) proved to be low in air but we pumped it up and set off gingerly to Blair Drummond where staff (and indeed fellow caravaners) were extremely helpful.) We were fortunate that we were in a centrally located site with the cities of the central belt available to us. The site proved very accommodating and helpful and we stayed there for several days while we obtained a new wheel and tyre. (I won’t bother you with the tribulations involved there.) Everyone was however extremely competent and attentive and eventually we were ready to proceed with everything in order.

By this time we had missed our slot at Berwick upon Tweed, so we obtained earlier entry to our site near Cromer, Norfolk. We generally plan when touring to leave about 9 – 10 am and arrive at our destination for the night at about 2 pm; or to drive about 200 – 250 miles. Today however we were coming from Stirling to Cromer which was far too long and we were therefore extremely tired when we rolled in to that site.

We had problems with our ‘mover’ (a boy’s toy where a remote control moves the caravan ) but again our fellow caravaners were helpful and 5 men materialised from around us and manhandled the vehicle into position; John was able to fix that problem himself but it was not welcome as yet another problem at just that point. (You have to be practical and able to fix things in order to caravan).

So it was with a slightly jaundiced eye that I viewed the map of Norfolk the next morning for our five days that we were due to spend here.

One of the many things I love about England is its extreme diversity. Even 50 miles can produce an entirely different landscape and one county is unlike every other.

Considering that Cromer is famed as a beach resort, and there are several coastal resorts here, I was not at all impressed with its beach credentials. I suppose this is a matter of expectation. As a Scot, I expect a beach resort to have a small attractive town with ancient stone houses, and a wide sandy beach heavily covered by clean white sand, with free and easy parking access. The beach to be enclosed on two sides with ranges of rocks big enough to give shelter, and a tolerable hotel or restaurant within driving distance. You will understand I’m sure that this utopia is not readily to be found in modern England. Norfolk beaches, so far as I could see, were mud with pebbles on them, featureless and without shelter.

Sherringham is a middle range resort, with many cafes, icecream parlours and bucket and spade jobs. It was amiable enough. It had a steam train and a market.

When you arrived in Cromer itself you were on the level of a high cliff with a series of ramps to get down to the ‘sand’ which was largely small pebbles. It was on a point, and big waves slapped into the walls and men were surfing on these. There was a breeze. We sat on the pier and had an ice-cream.

We went to Caisters (depressing and horrible) and Gt Yarmouth (horrible and depressing) and just fled away. But then we chanced on Horsey Windpump with its lakes, rivers and canals, plus a wind/watermill being restored, which was lovely.

We visited a lavender farm which had lovely gardens but was grossly overcrowded. I ate a scone with lavender in it and thought, after a few mouthfuls) – you could have too much of this!

We went out on a boat on the Broads (where memorably we were luckless enough to encounter the penetrating tones of the extremely observant grandmother of Mary and Tracy ) and that was relaxing for an hour (once we go out of earshot.)

Holt was an upmarket inland village with nice shops and unbelievably expensive clothes.

We visited the exquisitely beautiful l6th century Blickling Hall, all the more surprising because it’s made of bricks. Robert Adam had a hand in it, as had Capability Brown. It had been gifted to their creatures by both William the Conqueror and Henry VIII so it had certainly attracted some negative vibes. They were all naval men, able administratively, who had made the family prosperous through hard work and steadiness and judicious support of the ‘right’ (ie the winning) side. They were none of them oustandingly goodlooking but they obviously had excellent taste through all their generations. The final one was the last Deputy Vice Roy of India. I could find no reason why everything was so beautiful. On the whole, it had a peaceful history.

We also visited Sellrig Hall. Similar to Blickling but not half so beautiful and more pretentious.

There were some fine and ancient churches with their walls pierced by enormous clear glass windows. They were light and airy and were protestant for what that’s worth, as it was of the variety that is just a spitting distance from Rome. Some of the churches had round towers, and these were noticed by John who made off to examine them. He came back and reported that the round towers were much older than their attached churches and that there was a Society for the Preservation of round-towered churches and Prince Charles was its President. We figured he would be.


Norfolk is lovely in its way. It’s flat and water-lidded. As with any drained marsh, it is lush, full of flowers and trees, It’s not on the way to anywhere, so if you’re here you have to have business that’s to do with Norfolk. It’s still heavily agricultural; they were rushing to gather in the harvest. There is an old-fashioned air which is not unattractive, a warm bucolic accent, and loads and loads of sheep.

We did not exhaust all its possibilities; it would be nice to return.

I have one other small connection with Norfolk. One of the book groups of which I am a member was registering with the Library so that we could borrow books for longer than the time generally allowed. We decided to call ourselves West Sussex Book Group. The Librarian was one of those I remembered from school, whose main purpose was to prevent pupils from reading as far as possible. She was able smugly to inform my friend that, No, she could not register under that name, it was already taken; and no she could not borrow books until she had registered. Three times she refused us. She also declined to give us the list of names already used – Data Protection wouldn’t permit it. It appeared to me that she could refuse us in perpetuity – not to mention what a fruitless waste of my friend’s time it was. I had a burst of temper and said to my friend, We’ll sort her out. Tell her we’ll be the Hereward-the-Wake book group. Carole went back and waited patiently until the unhelpful librarian could no longer put off seeing her. “Yes,” she said with the smug air of one who can refuse as much as she chooses. Carole said quietly, I’d like to register our book group as the Hereward-the-Wake book group. The librarian was gob-smacked. “You can’t call it that.” she said. “Is some other group using that name also?” enquired Carole, pleasantly. The librarian had no option but to register us. I’ve had an affection for Hereward-the-Wake (of West Norfolk) ever since.



Spring met us this year in Stratford on Avon.

We had been in Scotland where the weather for March was quite benign, being either sunny, windy and cold, or grey, overcast and milder. There were a few daffodils out, and in people’s gardens some snowdrops, hellebores and primroses, but it was still The Frozen North.

We drove back, stopping for lunch at Westmorland and for the night at Warwick. That was all fine, but of course a motorway and a service station do not offer much contemplation of Nature Live, although from our window in Warwick we could see a small area of grass planted with very young trees, each one containing a single crow’s next.

We declined the doubtful privilege of breakfast in our hotel and headed off, quite early, for a proper English breakfast in Stratford on Avon. It was really quite foggy, so we followed Sat Nav cautiously through the English countryside. We were due at Stow in the Wold for lunch with John’s sister and brother-in-law, so we were in no rush. We arrived safely, and eventually we found a restaurant with what we wanted, and settled down to a leisurely plate of sausage, bacon, eggs, etc.

When we emerged the mist was gone and the attractive town was bathed in sunshine. The hordes of marauding tourists had not yet descended in full force, so we got to observe the town under favourable conditions: very few people and bathed in sunshine. It has wide streets and many well preserved ancient buildings. The hawthorn in the hedges was a delicate green, with scatterings of tiny white blossom which I think is the blackthorn (or sloe.) Gardens were full of snowdrop, narcissus, hellebores, crocus. There was even one magnificent magnolia, almost fully out (probably the early pink Campbelli…) We walked along the river, where I remembered how I had walked on the other bank with three of my girlfriends not so many years ago. They were teasing me because I was wearing my ‘cockerel’ knitted jacket which boasted the head of a cockerel on its back. As I recall I defended my choice, for there was no way I was going to admit that I had purchased the garment without noticing the offending decoration. The memory was pleasant but overlain with sadness because of the four of us, only two still survive. I turned away from that reflection to admire the river and its banks lined with weeping willow, whose pale green fronds stirred lightly in the wind, like a lady’s long hair. An armada of swans (at least a hundred) had gathered together near the bridges and were gliding up and down waiting for tourists to arrive with bread.

I thought, We have survived the winter!


When I was a child, my father banned the reading of books, as being a possible influence in opposition to his own ideas. (This was not the reason he gave of course.) (This edict was completely ineffective: I could always obtain books by one means or another; I had stashes where I hid them, and read them in secret places.) There were a few honourable exceptions to this ban of course. The Bible and theological tracts were permitted as were any subjects of interest to him. I therefore have a surprising knowledge of completely unlikely subjects; bee-keeping, for example; wood-working tools, and the various breeds of sheep and cattle in the British isles. This book had pictures and was much studied by me. Far from being useless information as I thought at the time, this knowledge has proved to be of satisfying value in delivering put downs to arrogant farming types who have assumed I am an ignorant townie (which of course I really am, except that I inexplicably can talk about sheep and cattle.)

So when Leicester was mentioned, I visualised a heavy set, large headed, long haired ram, and when I looked it up, this was indeed the case (breed now very rare). This variety of sheep was taken to Australia so its descendants are there.

And Leicester has been mentioned a lot recently, what with the bones of Richard III being discovered ‘in a car park’ and with Leicester Football Team winning the League against all odds. I wanted to see what kind of a town this was.

Scots without relatives or business in England generally have a lamentably poor understanding of the country. They know the M6 and M1, and the Channel ports, and they will have visited London, and in my case certainly, that was it. Now I’ve turned into an effete Southerner who doesn’t like ‘weather’ I do know the Southern half of the country quite well, but I’m decidedly vague about the mysterious regions North of Oxford, and I irritate friends as I am unable to distinguish between the

Midlands and the North.

So we set off to explore Leicester. It’s just off the M1 and it must be pretty near the centre of England. It has no truly significant geographical features. It stands on a very slight incline – well you could hardly call it a hill – and the River Soar runs through it, but it makes no great impact on the city. It’s surrounded by flat, green, well wooded country. It’s larger than I expected and it has the depressing, rather messy suburbs that many English towns have. We can see our hotel, but we would never have gained access to it through the muddle of streets without Sat Nav and even with Sat Nav we have more than one pass at it. It’s traffic has no logic to its flow and parking is very difficult. First impressions are not favourable.

The natives are friendly however. Although it received 10,000 Ugandan refugees in the days of Idi Amin, it still retains enough of its original population to have a ‘look’. The men are sturdy and personable, and the women have pretty, squarish faces and both have charm. Famous sons of Leicester (there are many) include the brothers Attenburgh and Gary Lineker.

In the morning we are agreeably surprised. Only 15 minutes flat walking and we arrive at the ancient part of town. You realise that this has always been a rich town – famous for wool, and for manufacturing wool products, and for leather work. Presumably it didn’t suffer heavy bombing because so many of its ancient buildings are intact. We visit the Cathedral first. In itself it is interesting, being square in shape with chapels at each corner. It still holds the statues in its niches. (The town stood for Cromwell, so possibly it’s church buildings were not dealt with harshly.) It is a successful blend of ancient and modern. The Bishop’s chair is an extraordinary tall throne with a gigantic back in the shape of a leather cross,in garish colours. (The person showing us round alleged that the current Bishop did not like it.) The tomb of the king was behind the altar and was a large slab of marble with a cross cut deeply into it, his title, King Richard III cut into it in gold letters and a small coat of arms in precious metals. It is all in appropriate and quiet good taste, and surprisingly moving.

Directly opposite the cathedral and no more than 5 minutes walk away is the attractive modern building which houses the Visitor Centre which explains how his body was found. Although we all know he was ‘found in a car park’, originally a monastery stood there and Richard who had set off from Leicester Castle to do battle, was returned to their care when dead. He was buried, and found, in a coffin. In time the avaricious and predatory Henry VIII ravished the monastery and stole their wealth and awarded their lands to some creature of his, who created a garden there. Naturally he would not want to draw attention to the former king for the Tudors were always uneasy about him, so he just planted a stick to mark the burial place and that was lost over the years. Within that museum, under the floor under glass, is the actual place from which they removed the body. Interestingly, when they were about to dig the site, a lady came who had the equivalent powers of a water diviner, and she indicated where they should dig, and there indeed they found the body.

There are plaster casts of his skeleton and skull. His skull is recognisably like the portraits of him. He was not a tall person, and although he did have a pronounced scoliosis of the spine it was in his lower back, and he had, carefully dressed, looked quite normal. The Visitor Centre invites you to consider whether he was in fact the murderer of the princes in the tower, but leaves you to draw your own conclusion. In my opinion a much more likely candidate was Henry Tudor (VII). Richard III had a strong claim on the throne in his own right, whereas Henry Tudor was from an illegitimate descendant of a king, and had no legal claim whatever (except, as with William the Conqueror, by right of conquest). Henry Tudor found himself with three other claimants, the two princes, and their sister Elizabeth, whom he married. We’ll never know; so you can take your pick.

It was surprising and moving to see how the crowds turned out to watch his cortege pass through the villages of Leicestershire on its way to the reburial. The guides to the cathedral said visitors to the city had increased 10 fold since Richard was reburied.

We had gone to see how they had won the football league (causing one of their most famous sons to be obliged to present Match of the Day clad only in his underpants) but looking at their town, I could understand how they had managed it. The Midlands and the North are different kinds of England. They can stand their ground. It cannot have been easy for Leicester to hold on to Richard’s body and to raise the money to so swiftly built such an appropriate and attractive Visitor Centre. They didn’t lose their nerve there, and they didn’t lose it at the football. They can grasp an opportunity when they see one.

I was wholly impressed by Leicester. We didn’t see the half of it and I would like to return one day.

That Leicester ram knows a green field when it sees one and it knows how to hold on to it.