On Valentine's Day I was given the choice of where to go for a bit of fresh air. We're not short of choice round here, but I plumped for Stratford-upon-Avon.
Stratford's got some great shops. And some nice places for tea/coffee/beer. Or you can just wander round soaking up that Shakespearean vibe; maybe even visit his grave, walk past his old house (demolished in 1759) or see where he was probably born.
Stratford's just 15 minutes away from us. I've been going there since I was literally a baby. And my wife was born there. She still has relatives in the town. My brother, meanwhile, ran an art gallery in the centre of Stratford for a year or two. So, in many ways, the place feels like home.
Well, the Valentine's Day trip was a success - a couple of good books, for instance - and a night or two later I was treated to an early birthday meal when the Divine Kim (my wife) took me to The Garrick Inn, which has been serving food and drink since before Shakespeare bought his house just up the road from there. The Garrick is next door to Harvard House - the facades of both are wooden and wobbly and knobbly. And, I have to say, my meal was fantastic.
I can forget how lucky I am living so close to Shakespeare's town. I know it so well - although sometimes I wonder which century I know best: Stratford in the sixteenth, seventeenth, twentieth or twenty-first centuries? (as for the last of all those, just don't mention the redevelopment of the Bancroft Gardens - most unpopular!)
But where we live is in the midst of a much wider Shakespeare territory. Some of my favourite spots are in the areas where the Shakespeare family originated, and which later turned out to be hotbeds of religious and political resistance to those two awful monarchs, Elizabeth and James. And, in the opposite direction from Stratford is the ancient city of Worcester.
Kim and I visited Worcester County Records Office last Friday to track down a will. It's an important document, because it reveals the existence of a woman whom historians have argued for many years simply did not exist. Shakespeare's 'first' wife.
So that's one thing I can be thankful for. Writing a book (or two) about Shakespeare, I couldn't be in a much more favourable position. I can almost see the panicked gunpowder plotters riding by.