I have never thought of myself as a ‘walker’, although as a child I was bullied by a maiden aunt to take long walks when I went to stay with her each year. She used to tempt me by providing wonderful picnics. My grand-parents were farmers in Derbyshire, and my father used to talk of walking four miles to school each day, so walking is possibly in my genes.
I only decided to walk the Camino when I took early retirement from the BBC. I had been researching it for a documentary which was subsequently made with Brian Sewell. I felt I had come to a stage in my life when I needed time just for me, time to reflect, time to take stock. I had never owned a pair of walking boots, or a ruck sack. I found it tough at first, as there seemed to be an awful lot of ‘up’ and also rather a lot of tricky ‘down’. But as I gained confidence, relaxed, partially emptied my ruck-sack and made friends, it became a wonderful experience which ultimately taught me many useful lessons on how to pick my way through my day to day life.
My book is I hope spiritual, but as important I hope it is honest and amusing. Since walking my first pilgrim route from St Jean Pied du Port to Santiago de Compostela, I have walked several other routes across Europe. They are cheap, well sign posted, and each one incredibly challenging and beautiful. I now walk with a dear friend who I met on my first Camino. She is half my size but a ‘tower of strength’, think Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. I am not suggesting she is my servant, just a very special friend, who constantly looks out for me, preventing me from trying to ‘tilt at windmills’ along the Way.
I continue walking daily, as I have two bearded collie dogs (Dulux dogs) called Custard and Crumble and a cat called Rhubarb.
I run a small enterprise ‘Maison Crème Anglaise’ with my husband in a medieval village in Burgundy. We offer bed and breakfast, and two cottages. We have a large grange which we use for exhibitions and small concerts.
In London we live on a boat in Limehouse, which has been our home in the UK for many years.