Whenever someone asks me where I come from I look vague and say I’m not sure. My father was in the RAF when I was little and we moved house so many times I lost count. Actually, thinking back, nowhere really felt like home till we arrived in Dorset when I was 11.
This weekend we were invited to a wedding in the wilds of Dorset and as we drove through country lanes filled with cow parsley, foxgloves and buttercups, it suddenly struck me that if I come from anywhere at all, it’s there.
Once we’d passed the suburban sprawl of Bournemouth, where I went to school, every village signpost brought memories of the past flooding back. The pub where we had lunch with my mother every Saturday for years, the fields where we’d picnic, the beach I took my husband to the first time he visited our house, the hill my children used to roll down, laughing hysterically as they gathered speed and ending up in a heap at the bottom.
The other striking thing about Dorset is the weather. The sky was a murky shade of grey when we left Oxford at the crack of dawn but when we arrived in Dorset, the clouds lifted and the sun came out. The fields were so lush and green after last week’s torrential rain that the landscape looked like something straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel. Speaking of which, I’ve just heard that Radio 4 is recording a new version of my favourite Hardy book, Far From the Madding Crowd, to be broadcast in the autumn.
Finally we arrived at Minterne House in the village of Minterne Magna, where the wedding was held. A stunning Edwardian manor house that’s been used for scores of films (Far From the Madding Crowd among them), it was the perfect setting for such a happy day. A choir from nearby Beaminster sang, the bride and groom made their vows beneath a painting of the Battle of Trafalgar and when it was all over they roared off down the drive in the bridegroom’s gleaming classic Morgan. In his book, England’s Thousand Best Houses, Simon Jenkins called Minterne House “a corner of paradise” – and he was right.