I have been lucky enough to spend the past few days in the USA where I am giving a series of talks.
I flew first into Houston, Texas and sadly brought the English weather with me. My visit there was two days of marvelous contrasts.
The first evening I spent at the Rodeo – a huge enterprise and yet one run by 31,000 volunteers. The success of the event means that, through its charitable arm, it is able to support a number of educational enterprises and thereby help an amazing number of children and students. It was most extraordinary and humbling to glimpse so much goodwill and positive energy within the community.
I enjoyed walking through the animal halls, and saw some Suffolk Rams which are what we have back home at Highclere. They have distinctive black faces which show up in the lambs born each year and made me look forward to going back home to see our own lambing pens by Beacon Hill. I was so grateful to my hosts who kindly invited me to their box thus giving me the best views of the parades as well as the Rodeo itself. Would I have liked to take part? Maybe but definitely not on the bronco horses though!
The second evening I spent at the Grand Houston Opera listening to a glorious centenary celebration led by the American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. She was wonderful as were the rest of the artistes and the evening flew by. I had the great privilege of meeting the performers afterwards and wished they could all come and sing at Highclere.
In between these events I was doing interviews with Houston PBS, giving a talk about past and present lives at Highclere, the Real Downton Abbey, and going to a splendid tea party.
Now I am in Florida, and guess what? It is about to rain! I aim to leave the rain behind and return home for the school holidays and public opening at the Castle.