If I were born again, I’d choose to be Italian. I lived in Rome for seven years as a child as my father worked there for the Commowealth War Graves Commission and that is when the Italian spell was cast on my little head. I cannot imagine a life without la bella Italia.

The Tuscan Secret

The Tuscan Secret

Now, I live in Tuscany for six months of the year and the other six in West Sussex, near our five grandchildren. I still pinch myself (I’ll show you the bruises).

In Tuscany I help run a small holiday business in a converted watermill, where I also host Writing Retreats in September.

For a certain special birthday, my husband bought me a beautiful, turquoise vintage Vespa, which I christened Wanda. I have fallen off her twice and she now sits in the shed crying out for me to conquer my fears and climb back on again.

Three months after marrying my lovely half-Italian husband, we moved to Tanzania for three years where we both worked. I taught English at a Mission school and travelled to work each day on a scooter (hence the desire to rekindle my Vespa need: travelling with hair streaming behind me in the wind, not a care in the world…until I ended up in the ditch). Dream on, Granny!

Three years ago, we returned to Africa and spent one whole month driving across Namibia, Zambia and finally Tanzania in a Toyota Landcruiser. It was an unforgettable experience: Africa is so, so beautiful and gets under the skin. It was also unforgettable because Granny and Grandpa ended up missing the flight home and spending one night in a Tanzanian prison. N. B. Never pack a manky impala horn in your suitcase to take home to show the grandchildren. Lesson learned!

When I was fifty, I won the County Singles Tennis Cup, which I still can’t believe. I’ve always loved playing but only made third pair at school, so it took me a long while to improve. Eighteen months ago, I was told to give up playing by my surgeon, after a big shoulder operation, but I am disobedient…

I love gardening and have improved since my first efforts, when I ordered a rose by post and planted it upside down, the roots sticking in the air. (A kind neighbour pointed this out to me).

At school, I wasn’t always good. I was given a conduct mark (note that three of those meant expulsion). But when I told my mother, she congratulated me, thinking it was for good behaviour. It was hard explaining the truth.

Having been brought up Roman Catholic, I have since done my own thing and adapted a faith of my own, free of the incomprehensible dogma I was fed. My youngest brother tragically drowned when we lived in Rome and I lost both my parents within a year (when my youngest child was ten months old). I still talk to them most days, so they know about my publishing deal with Bookouture and they have raised a glass or two to me in the celestial pub.