In the depths of last winter the bathroom, if by no means warm, was the least glacial room in the house. Ever since the children were born it’s also been the only place in our North Norfolk home in which there is sufficient freedom from interruption to read. I was convalescing from Zadie Smith (On Beauty) and needed the literary equivalent of comfort food: of toad in the hole, cottage pie or dead man’s leg. The choice was Howard’s End, Brideshead Revisited or The Riddle of the Sands, all steadfast companions since I grew out of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. There was a rattle of rain on the bathroom window. It was an evening for Erskine Childers. I closed the door firmly on the children, drew the bath and settled down to read.
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