Last weekend was of the quiet stay-at-home variety – I need one of those every now and again to recharge the batteries. Bex came home for the Saturday to practise running up the hill that we live on. Our home is on the edge of the Chilterns, more incline than Camden in London where Bex shares a house with four other medical students, but nothing to compare with the gradient of the hills she'll be racing up and down next month.
She has allowed her Uncle Pete (my mad mountain goat of a brother who lives in the Lake District and spends his spare time running in the mountains that surround him) to persuade her to take part in one of the fell runs that he so enjoys. The sadistic soul tempted our youngest sibling Andrew to risk it last year and he hasn't been the same ever since! Having said that, Andrew is repeating it this year, so having sworn 'never again' he is planning to finish in a better time and a slightly less exhausted state than 12 months ago. We'll see how Bex copes – she's certainly up for a challenge!
For me though, exercise is off the agenda as I try to shake off a couple of sports injuries – spending much of my youth in one athletic arena or another seems to have left me susceptible to dodgy joints – or maybe it's just old age….
Having felt rather frustrated at my lack of activity initially I have now relaxed into a state of sloth. Once Bex had exerted herself up the hill a few times we enjoyed ourselves in the kitchen making flapjacks and white chocolate and cranberry cookies, with half an eye on the TV to catch the best of the fabulous first weekend of six nations rugby. Although we are officially without children at home at the moment, it's lovely to see them when they return – even if just for a day.
In fact, even though Olley and I are enjoying having the house to ourselves rather more than we expected, it seems that we can't quite keep away from our offspring, one way or another. If they don't come to us, we go to them. But who can blame us when they are in places like the beautiful city of Bath. Charlie is studying Sport and Exercise Science at the university there, and we decided to pop down to watch him play hockey this weekend. Then Olley surfed the net, as you do, and found a lovely looking guesthouse offering special one night deals for the Friday night. Temptingly, it was just around the corner from where Charlie lives, and they welcomed dogs so Barney could join us! I was working later than usual on Friday doing some pre-recorded shows for our Spring Fashion special event next weekend, so we couldn't even leave home until about 7pm but we decided to book it as an early Valentine's treat. As we'd get there too late to go out to eat I packed a bag of cheese, pate, salad and fruit (Olley added a decent bottle of Rioja with a bar of chocolate for pudding!) and we planned to picnic in our room. How romantic!
When we arrived we couldn't believe our luck – Dukes Of Bath is the most gorgeous grade1 listed Georgian home with huge but elegant proportions and an equally generous welcome. Our initial room had transformed into a splendidly spacious suite with a four-poster bed as it hadn't been booked and the discount made it a steal. Barney has decided he could get used to living in this sort of style! It's unusual to find somewhere like this allowing dogs, and it certainly means they (and Charlie) will be seeing us again.
Charlie and his girlfriend Hannah joined us for a tasty cooked breakfast before we enjoyed watching his hockey match (it didn't rain) and afterwards a stroll along the Kennet and Avon canal with Barney. We then wandered around the city – it is such a lovely place – well worth a visit if you've never been. As a child I went to visit my Granny who lived there – Mum was born there – but as a child you never really appreciate things in the way you do when you're an adult. Much like our recent weekend in Paris, you can just walk and enjoy.
While we were in Bath we also had contact with Billy, our youngest, who is in Jasper in Canada at the moment taking a course to become a snowboard instructor. He rang to say he had passed the first stage, a three day exam. We then skyped him to have a longer conversation – it was good to see his face on my iPad screen as well as hear his voice. He has had a few issues to deal with – several pieces of faulty or broken equipment and, last week, a tumble that left him concussed and off the slopes for a few days.
He went off in January with high expectations of how brilliant it was going to be, and it certainly is but he has had to cope with the realities of life while thousands of miles away from home. He's even done his own laundry! He has managed really well and will return home much closer to a young man than a boy. He still has seven weeks to go and the pressure mounts as he will be training for the second level. But I have to say, I think he is having the time of his life!! You can probably tell from these photos – coming home may not be easy…
I must say, on a completely different note, Billy being away has made me think of the Mums (and Dads and all other loved ones, of course) of our young soldiers who are posted abroad. Billy is seventeen, only seven months from his eighteenth birthday which would put him old enough to be a solider serving abroad. My heart goes out to anyone waving goodbye to a son – or daughter – in those circumstances. It's been hard enough to do it for a son following his dream to the snow. Behind the heart bursting with pride must always be the suppressed fear and knowledge that life doesn't always go to plan.
Earlier I mentioned the Spring Fashion event coming up this Friday and Saturday, 15th and 16th February. We'll be showcasing some of the exciting new styles and designs that make up our Spring Collection, with everything you see on-air available on three easy-pay. Before that, though, I'm delighted to be bringing you a dramatic preview – on Thursday at 11am we have our Spring Catwalk show – only the second time we have broadcast a catwalk special like this.
Our gifted behind-the-scenes stylist Charlotte has selected outfits to illustrate some of the major trends for the coming season, and of course, at QVC, we show how 'real' people can wear them and look and feel fantastic. Talented model Cordelia has choreographed a compelling catwalk show with some of our other top models, putting the clothes in the spotlight and showing them off to their best. Prepare to be impressed – and tempted! Fashion journalist Lesley Ebbetts will be with me to talk about the trends and help you decide which styles are ones that might suit you best – and of course you can join us by calling in or texting during the show. I hope you can make it – see you at 11 on Thursday!
Until then, take care.