I have just returned from Texas, a world away from Highclere but where I was met with such warm greetings from those who love Highclere (and Downton) that I immediately felt at home. My first port of call was Houston; 95˚C and not a cloud in sight. I was very fortunate to be invited to meet President George H. Bush and Mrs Barbara Bush at their home. There were some similarities in that Mrs Bush was about to mend a leaky roof and was most concerned and sympathetic about the extent of our leaky roofs! She also loves dogs but has not got quite as many as I do which is definitely more manageable. It was a great morning and an honour to meet them.
Thereafter we went to an extraordinary church, St Martin’s Episcopal. Architecturally, it has an amazing, gothic inspired, sense of space and peace inside and the details in the woodwork and alcoves are not dissimilar to Highclere. What makes it exceptional is the community programmes and energy created by Rev Dr. Russell Levenson, his wife Laura and all their team. Through a friendship with the Bishop of Texas, I was giving a talk to over 1,000 members of the congregation and friends following a delicious dinner in a Houston hotel. It was a lovely evening, full of anecdotes and I hope entertaining.
I then flew to the Rose Festival at Tyler, a much better plan than to drive given the size of the State of Texas. Apparently it would take me over 17 hours to drive across the entire State, Tyler is not in fact that far, but I was very grateful for the plane.
Tyler, which is near Dallas, prides itself on being the rose capital of the State. As in Houston, I received a warm and generous Texan welcome full of laughter and enthusiasm. It was a busy few days with book signings, teas, receptions and a talk which I hope amused the guests. Furthermore, I love roses so it was interesting to see how they cope with the hotter, drier Texan climate. The rose arbour here at Highclere will, I hope, be sufficiently advanced to share with visitors next summer, whilst one of my most relaxing moments in the summer is to pick the great old fashioned roses from the Rose House to arrange inside the Castle.
Reading Tyler, I realised the town was named after President Tyler who succeeded President Harrison. I had just found an invitation to the White House from President Harrison in the archives here at the Castle.
Thank you to you all for your kindness to me!