When the Downton Abbey team first arrived at Highclere, we agreed with them that the interiors would remain exactly as they are in our home – the paintings, desks, sofas, carpets and so on. Thus, the fictional family would live in the “real” Highclere and likewise Highclere would become their fictional home.

As the Downton journey continued through the series and then into the films, an enormous number of scenes involving most of the cast at some point or other took place around the deep comfortable red sofas which frame the fireplace in the library. It is a beautiful harmonious room and a peaceful space both for us and for those who love Downton.

Over the last year I decided that every month I would convene a book club – it is free for Friends of Highclere to attend in person and is always streamed so that for a short time we can all be together. For our part we prepare both sandwiches or other treats plus, of course, a glass of champagne for all who come and it has become a very convivial evening. In addition, Friends have a chance to enjoy a short tour before settling down around the red sofas for the entertainment.

Last week Susie Dent joined me on the “Red Sofa” to talk about two of her latest books. She first became known in this country for her role in a popular TV show called “Countdown”. She has an extraordinary ability with, as well as passion for, words: their inherent meanings, words that are nearly lost and words that amuse.

Words are incredibly important and really can shape both our thoughts and our actions. There are many discussions in linguistics about whether a thought or a word develops first and how or why a word was created to express a feeling or a thing. It is one of the skills mankind has developed to communicate and share goals.

Both new situations and new things require new words from telephone to emoji and of course over the centuries our requirements constantly change. One of the words Susie found particularly apt: was an old English word, uhtceare, meaning pre-dawn angst: those feelings and worries which circle round in our heads in those dim flickering hours just before daybreak. Another one is petrichor: the smell of rain after a long hot dry period although the current weather patterns and lack of sun means that many of us in the UK have had very little need for that word of late.

In the “Roots of Happiness” Susie reminds us of the many happy words that are out there and even if it is ostensibly written for children, it is a good book for me – lovely illustrations and excellent for sparking for family conversation. The page fell open on the word “vorblissed” – just saying it out loud slowly emphasizes the amount of happiness it expresses. Caitlin who works in my office has the word “snaccident” pinned above her desk as in “the accidental eating of a lot of snacks when she just meant to have one”. Or “bellycheer”, a 16th century word describing the happiness of comfort food.

Words, reading and books are such an essential activity for remaining well in body and spirit – they undoubtedly help slow mental decline, improve sleep and lower blood pressure. Over 3,200 years ago, an inscription was carved above the entrance to one of the royal chambers in a palace of King Ramses II. It read: “The House of Healing for the Soul”.

Books used to be read out loud, shared so that all could experience them. These days we read in silence but I am sure one of the reasons book clubs are so popular is that they still bring people together to share the joy of a good story well told. I hope the Highclere Book Club is the same and full of the literary equivalent of bellycheer – I must ask Susie for the right word!