The Hatfield House Frost Fair is buzzing with festive feeling as we arrive. The juggling entertainer is delighting the children with his tricks and visitors are wandering around or relaxing on a bench with a warm drink.

We approach the Palace green and see a group of white marquees lined up and packed with exhibitors. Inside, we enjoy the wonderful displays of Christmas decorations from glittering baubles to miniature glass angels. I buy a Christmas diamante brooch of a leaping reindeer and a Scandinavian style decoration of a winter elf.

I’m beginning to feel Christmassy and can’t wait to see more. We step into the next marquee bustling with shoppers and are bombarded with a huge variety of colourful and sparkling merchandise; from alpaca scarves to well designed leather handbags; from fruit gins to woodcarvings of herons, lions and horses.

I’m drawn to a stall displaying bespoke silver jewellery, and it’s official! I have now started my Christmas shopping and buy my niece a pretty silver necklace with a contemporary design. I spot the perfect pink woollen hat for my daughter; it’s so pretty with sparkles on. My husband smiles kindly and gently breaks the news to me that, as she is no longer ten years old, she would never wear it!

We chat with a stallholder selling football paraphernalia and buy a couple of unusual historic prints of my brother’s favourite football team. He’ll be fascinated to find out that most football strips were an entirely different colour when the teams were founded.

After shopping we step outside into the pale sunlight. Visitors are tucking into pulled pork baguettes and mince pies. We enjoy a freshly made banana and chocolate crepe each. Before we leave I buy a cup of mulled cider; it’s really warming with a sweet apple punch and spicy undertones. My husband has a Cadbury’s drink called The Works, a huge hot chocolate laden with cream and topped with marshmallows and cinnamon.

I sit quietly on a bench, immersed in the festive atmosphere and breathing in the crisp autumn air; we enjoy listening to the rock choir singing out Leonard Cohen’s Hallelulia; my husband looks over at me and notices my eyes well up. That song gets me every time!

I’m thrilled that a bit of the West End has come to the Alban Arena and a new production of West Side Story is about to begin! As we take our seats, the stage is set and smoke spills onto the stalls. I settle into my seat and sip my hot chocolate looking forward to revisiting all those familiar songs.

Inspired by Romeo and Juliet and set in New York’s Upper West Side in the fifties, the Montagues and Capulets are replaced by two rival street gangs battling for control of their territories. Bernardo is the leader of the Sharks and Riff, of the Jets. When Tony, a Jet, meets Maria, Bernardo’s sister, love strikes like a lightening bolt.

This play is a classic with lyrics by Sondheim and music by Bernstein; it became a worldwide musical hit when it first came out in 1957. The film was then adapted from the musical and in 1961 swept up a whopping ten academy awards!

We’re introduced to the Jets in the opening scene. I love the synchronized dance moves, clicking of fingers, and sound of police sirens turning into high-pitched French horns and trumpets just like in the film!

The stage is set for the dance and packed with the entire cast. The music blares out and suddenly Tony and Maria appear at either end of the stage, the lights turn blue around them and silence takes a hold. They are powerlessly struck down by cupid’s arrow. We, the audience enter a timeless space with them both and there is a feeling from that moment on that their intense young love will be doomed.

There are some vibrant complex jazz pieces by Bernstein and modern dance expressing both the joyous and darker side of a passionate love between two teenagers. Their perfectly harmonized voices fill the stage; I’d forgotten that there are so many classic songs like Somewhere, Tonight, Maria, I feel pretty. America is a delight; the choreography is energetic and upbeat, as the ruffled hemlines of colourful dresses crash through the air.

I notice the conductor’s hand become more animated from the corner of my eye, as the dramatic scenes intensify; it is precisely in these moments where the audience gets swept away in emotion that he must concentrate the hardest to deliver the precision of the musical score. After the finale we feel as if we have been on an emotional roller coaster ride and we applaud with enthusiasm, captivated by such a talented cast.

We snuggle up in our warm coats, scarves and wellies and head to this year’s fireworks.

Once we arrive, the music is loud, there’s a certain anticipation and festive feel in the air.

 We stroll along to the burger stand and order our cheeseburgers topped with onions and ketchup. It’s pretty dark so I can’t really tell if it’s well cooked but bite into it all the same. Mmm…,it’s delicious. I wash it down with some mulled wine, surprisingly strong behind the warmth and spicy sweetness. We bump into a few familiar faces.

 Suddenly that first firework rockets into the night sky followed by fireworks of every colour whizz through the air burning brighter and louder by the minute. The children wrapped up in woolly hats and scarves, yell with excitement at the initial boom. Their bellies filled with hot dogs and lips stained red with toffee apples, their eyes glazed with expectation and wonderment.

 I sip my wine and my daughter hands me some chocolate as comets hurtle through the November air. I enjoy the pink glittering tails that give way to cascading shimmers of gold-lace; cool ultraviolet tones scatter like ribbons then silently fall away like stardust. I stand back and marvel at the screamers, the brilliant white strobe effects and the patterns of the spinning Catherine wheels.

 I look around for a moment and see the full moon, steady and tranquil obscured by a fog of cloud; a sea of mesmerized faces gazing up at the night sky. I smell the air dense with smoke. Sparks dissipate into the atmosphere leaving a trail of embers until the silent ashes fall to the ground. I wonder what people are thinking as the fireworks explode with colour, scorching and crackling through the air.

 The biggest fireworks ignite, filling the sky for a sensational finale and we are bombarded with a starburst of luminous colour. It has been a wonderful community event, bringing friends and families together. We head home in jovial mood, our hair smelling of smoke and our steps crunching on the cold damp grass, through drifts of fallen leaves.

We’re venturing to Battlers Green Farm shopping village in Radlett this morning for brunch at the Bull Pen restaurant and tearoom. It is a converted barn built in the early 1900’s, the shaker-style tables and chairs match the light wood floors and the tall windows let in ample light. It’s always busy, has a great buzz and is well known for its cream teas and freshly baked cakes. I order a small cooked breakfast followed by some cinnamon toast that I dip in maple syrup.

It’s hard to believe that it started out with a single shop in a secluded farm area, and that over a dozen stables have now been converted into attractive boutiques. It’s so refreshing to leave the high street behind and take pleasure in wandering along a tree-lined promenade and exploring each and every boutique.

There is a strong community feel and an authentic rustic charm. I chat with a variety of local traders and spend a little longer than I should in the clothing boutiques. I love the unusual selection of handbags and jewellery; I try on a taupe woolen scarf with dark swirling patterns, it has a distinct style and will keep me warm. Perfect!

Outside the florist is an autumnal table decorated with seasonal fruits and flowers, and yellow and orange pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, The green scent is revitalizing and as I step in, take time to admire the freshly cut lilies, roses and orchid plants.

As soon as I step into Spice Way, I breathe in the intense aroma and marvel at the wonderful variety of bowls filled with colourful blends of mixed herbs and spices. A variety of gourmet gift sets to suit all palettes are neatly arranged along the higher shelves.

Across the courtyard are two large home interior shops packed with stylish accessories. I buy a small oval lamp with mini mosaic mirror tiles; it will sparkle nicely in my living room.

As I step out of the shop, I find my husband in the village’s anchor farm shop clutching a huge loaf of sourdough bread and choosing some mature cheddar.

Just before we leave with our bagful of culinary delights, we go and have a look at the aviary hidden behind the shops as it’s populated with some colourful and animated cockatoos!

Going out for a pizza and a glass of decent red wine is one of life’s simple pleasures.  We’re welcomed into Nonno’s Pizzeria on Hatfield Road by the headwaiter, quintessentially Southern Italian, charming and loud; he asks us to take a seat.

The place has a rustic charm, furnished with antiqued wooden tables and chairs and the walls have a rough brick finish. The huge wood-fired pizza oven behind the curved counter glows with warmth giving the restaurant a homely feel and savoury aromas fill the air. I order a mushroom pizza with some rocket and spinach heaped on the top. My husband, teenage daughter and friend order Americanos.

The chef is a young Italian from Trento, a natural, kneading and flinging the dough about; there isn’t a rolling pin in sight and I watch him creating a small disc, re-flouring the surface then throwing it back down, stretching it into a wider disk and making sure it never gets too thin.

He pours on the tomato sauce with a small ladle in circular motion, then its time for a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of oil, after that he adds the toppings with care and finishes with oregano and garlic. The pizza is put into the oven then served at the perfect temperature, its crust a deep golden brown and cheese bubbling.

When the pizzas arrive they’re huge, and we’re relieved that we didn’t bother with starters. They’re utterly delicious! The waiter sings along to the Italian music as we demolish our food.

The place is getting busy as it’s a Friday night and the headwaiter holds it together by speaking more loudly and flitting from table to table, making sure everybody is happy. My daughter doesn’t quite finish all of her pizza but being a teenager, is likely to devour the rest of it stone cold for breakfast tomorrow morning.

We leave full and content, ready to brave the cold air.

“Ciao e grazie.” I call out as we leave.

The waiter smiles and gives us a wave. “Ciao al prossimo!”