We were heading to Old Vicarage School, where one of our former Abbotsleigh staff members, Clare Sampaio had worked. Richmond has to be one of the prettiest places we’ve seen in the UK so far. On the river, it’s historic but beautifully preserved. The houses are vastly expensive – apparently Brad and Angelina like to reside here at times and I read just today that they are buying a house in the area.
The school looks like a miniature castle. With a front door inches thick, we rang the bell and were warmly greeted by the school secretary who kindly allowed us to store our luggage in the office. The school’s Head of English Elaine Letcher had organized the visit. We had a little time up our sleeve so we walked down to the town for a coffee. Richmond seems to have a lot of bridal shops and almost every one had a dress in the window that paid homage to the Duchess of Cambridge’s beautiful gown. Unlike at home, there wasn’t a stapless number in sight.
We also met the lovely Lisa Mahoney from Random House who was looking after me in the absence of the lovely Emily. My first session was with Reception, Years 1 and 2 who looked utterly adorable in their little red-pink uniforms. They were great fun and followed immediately by the Year 3-6 girls who were very engaged too.
I signed quite a number of books that the girls had already purchased from a local book store called The Lion and the Unicorn – great name and very pretty shop.Elaine invited us to join her for lunch. The dining room is down an incredibly steep set of steps into the cellar. In the teachers’ section there’s a very low beam, marked with striped yellow tape – I can’t imagine how many times staff have whacked their heads on it. The food was delicious and the staff we spoke to all said how fortunate they were to have great food every day.
The playground is postage stamp sized and the children have to be bussed to their sports and games. Ian and I spent some time talking to the children outside – they were very chatty and asked lots of questions about the books and Australia. Ian had postcards made with Alice-Miranda on them and my website and email address – they seem to be very well received by the children, who eagerly lined up to get one.
We had some time before the car was due to arrive so Ian and I again headed down town, this time visiting The Lion and the Unicorn and the local Waterstones too. We walked along the river and saw the Queen's barge, which she's going to ride in for the Jubilee celebrations.We left Richmond and our driver gave us a great potted history of the area on our way across town to Maida Vale, although we’ve decided that it’s more Kilburn, than Maida Vale. This is a very multicultural part of the city with loads of great Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants and a much more diverse community. It’s just around the corner from Lords too – I might lose Ian over the next couple of days as England are playing the West Indies at the moment.