"We had a splendid time at the Villa Paradiso," we wrote in the visitor's book after a fortnight of hot, cloudless days and warm nights, tickled by the villa's name and keen to see it on the page. Everyone agreed that it might have come from an old-fashioned thriller – "Murder at the Villa Paradiso" – though the house was new and lay at the end of a field in Greece, rather than on a moonlit headland on the Cote d'Azur.
Every day began the same way. First, at some distance, cocks crew and dogs barked. Then the birds began their dawn shrieking, a din that settled down eventually to the steady cooing of doves and pigeons, one of which went through the whole day with the first four notes of Autumn from Vivaldi's Four Seasons — coo-coocook-coo, coo-coocook-coo — without ever getting further into the piece. The crickets started up when the sun hit the trees. We sat on the terrace and ate our breakfast of yoghurt and honey as swallows, or perhaps swifts, swooped across the pool in front of us. The sea shone silvery blue at the end of the valley. This was the life! From the damp perspective of London it seems long ago, but it was only last week.