Today is my cat, Vivaldi’s 20th birthday and she’s celebrating in style with some of her favourite treats and a busy afternoon sleeping in the conservatory. I had hoped the occasion might be marked with a telegram from the Queen…or at least the royal corgis (although, as dogs, it might be against their principles to congratulate a cat)…or possibly from the Prime Minister’s cat, Larry.  But nothing’s arrived yet.  Maybe later!

budSince I last wrote this diary I’ve had a break in Budapest with my husband, along with my oldest (not in years I hasten to add) friend and her husband.  We had hoped to do a river trip but the flooding of the (not-so-blue) Danube meant that all river traffic was suspended for the duration.  It was quite disturbing to see the riverside roads and tramways under water and the people with homes and businesses near the river preparing for the deluge with sandbags.  Luckily by the time we were leaving the water had subsided a little but it certainly brought home how destructive flooding can be.  However, in spite of this, we managed to explore the city, taking the funicular railway up to the old town of Buda and even taking the metro to a thermal spa on the outskirts (we didn’t go in, although if we went back we would definitely give it a try).  Apart from that, I can certainly recommend the beer (I think the English translation was Golden Pheasant).

abneyOn my return from Hungary I was in for a treat.  I have joined my local archaeological society SMART (the South Manchester Archaeological Research Team) and we were given permission to excavate in the grounds of Abney Hall, Agatha Christie’s sister’s old home.  The Watts family who lived at Abney had dismantled a medieval chapel and rebuilt it in their grounds as a garden folly (Agatha would certainly have seen it during her many stays at the hall).  When the local council took over the property in the 1960s they demolished the chapel (I know…unbelievable, isn’t it!!!)  Our mission (which we chose to accept) was to uncover anything that might remain of the chapel and this we did, finding the remnants of walls, the burned hinges of what was obviously an ancient door and a beautiful piece of carving which may have been a ceiling boss (or some other sort of decoration).  We’ve had permission to go back and investigate further and I can’t wait to get my trowel dirty again!

Incidentally, I was chatting to John Curran at CrimeFest (John published Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks) and he told me that Agatha went straight to Abney Hall to take refuge with her sister, Madge, immediately after she’d been found in Harrogate following those famous eleven days when she went missing…something I never knew.  It’s a pity the owners of Abney don’t make more of the Christie connection.

Last week I spoke at Wilmslow Library to a lovely audience.  I do enjoy getting out and about to meet the people who read my books.  And this Friday I’m travelling to Blackpool to talk at a lunch at the Central Library along with Martin Edwards.  We’ll be discussing our work and I do hope some of you can come along to meet us.