Wandering in Westonbirt

The only sunny day of last week happened to coincide with my birthday. Luckily we had decided to visit Westonbirt Arboretum near Tetbury in Gloucestershire. Managed by the forestry commission it contains one of the most famous tree collections in The world. Mostly collected and nurtured by the great Victorian botanists it contains over 18,000 varieties of trees and shrubs. At this time of year it becomes a riot of colour.

It was glorious wending our way around the 800 acre estate (we only went part of the way). The arboretum backs on to Highgrove - Prince Charles's country home. Here are a few of the many photos I took on our visit.

And here's one taken of me by my young friend as I was taking photos.

Later in the day we called in to see my old friend Joanne who lives in Bampton. (The venue for much of the filming of the current TV series - Downton Abbey). The day didn't finish there as soon after we got home we were out again - this time for a birthday dinner at one of my favourite restaurants - The French Horn at Sonning. Jane, Brian, and Jilly joined us. This picture taken by my young friend. what a lovely evening.

Thursday was the day of the Royal Miniature Society's AGM so I travelled up to The Mall in London to attend it and to collect the miniatures I'd exhibited. As I walked from Charing Cross station I saw that the latest addition atop the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square is now a monstrous purple chicken.

And nearer to the gallery I came across this splendid statue of a life-size white horse.

Another nice surprise last night. The Miniature Art Society of Florida emailed to say I'd won first prize for portraits in the upcoming annual exhibition. As this exhibition attracts more entries from around the world than any other Society I'm very pleased. This is the miniature. I entitled it 'The Samburu Woman'.

Although there's been a lot of social activity this past week I haven't neglected my work. Still painting the rose on some new very hard white paper which takes detail well but maybe not watercolour washes too evenly.

Saturday evening was fireworks night and my young friend had two of her university - days friends staying with her. So we went to an enormous fireworks display at Sonning Common. Not only was it the best I've ever been to it was the most creative. Set to the muppets music and words every display was exactly in time with every beat of the music. I normally don't like really loud music, but even though we stood right next to the speakers it was quite thrilling. Earlier we waved a few 'monster' sparklers around - gave the last one to a passing boy whose father hasn't managed to buy any. Then to round the evening off (after nearly an hour getting through an enormous exodus of vehicles leaving the firework field) we went to The Greyhound restaurant in nearby Peppard. Best pepper steak I've had in years.

My favourite TV programme is 'The Big Bang Theory' and I just texted MYF to say I'd dreamed we met Sheldon in Waitrose yesterday. She thinks I'm bonkers!

The new Christmas stamps are out tomorrow. They depict a variety of artistic depictions of the Madonna and child. So nice - much better than last year's. here they are.