I was supposed to be setting off next week on a (self-made) writing retreat in the north of England. [This is beginning to look increasingly unlikely, but I am still hoping against all hope.] My first time away from home since Christmas 2019, a much-desired change of scenery and a chance to work peacefully on some new writing ideas. I’ve realised that most writing retreats seem to be monastic-style cells, with minimum of distractions, set in a pretty landscape, and perhaps with a comfortable communal area (and someone else preparing your food, ideally). Here are some which caught my eye.
I have recently acquired a new mattress – after my back started telling me in no uncertain terms that the old one was knackered. I am somewhat sceptical still about the benefits of the much-lauded (and expensive) ‘mattress in a box’ Emma, but just think how much more expensive it might be to have one of the bedrooms below!
I can downsize quite easily if I live all by myself – but I will need a special room just for my books, somewhere to read, write, and just admire all the imacculately arranged shelves. The ideal would be the Whatley family’s specially-commissioned library in Texas (first picture below), but some of the others might also do…
Last week I headed back to my workplace for the first time in 18 months and mentioned that, despite the discomfort of commuting and fear of Covid, one of the absolute perks of my job is working an iconic building such as Senate House. I have always been an Art Deco fan, and the architect, Charles Holden, was clearly also influenced by the Bauhaus style when he proposed a grandiose scheme in the early 1930s. Lack of funding and the start of the war meant those plans were abandoned and only a small fraction was actually built. Nevertheless, it is an impressive building both inside and out, and has starred in many a film or TV series. You can find a full list of films, TV productions and advertisements in which the Grand Old Lady has played a part here, but I’d just like to highlight a few personal favourites.
I am lucky enough to have a room of my own, a study, in my house. Yet I never stop dreaming of a little dream cabin or writing shed hidden somewhere in a (beautifully tended) garden, out of earshot of the house.
It’s the end of the summer (for some of us) and so I leave the beautiful gardens and landscapes, and take you indoors. Please make yourselves comfortable on these sofas – although some of them look more comfortable than others. I love modern design, but I almost fear sitting down on some of these sofas for fear of messing up! (Incidentally, I am getting a new sofa soon, which may be why I am so receptive to these images, although it’s safe to say mine will be nothing like as grand as any of those below.)
When the summer holidays are over and people gather back for school and work once more, I miss all of my friends who live in other countries. Since I am still cautious about travelling, I can’t go and see them, but I am imagining we are sitting and having endless discussions over dinner and wine in places like these.
Before the massive destructive wildfires last week, few people outside Greece had heard of the island of Evia. It is not really a tourist destination for British tourists (although it attracts a small proportion of German or French hikers or ecologists), despite the fact that it’s the second-largest island and quite close to Athens. For many Athenians, including my ex-in-laws, it is where their home village lies, so it is the place where my children have spent nearly all of their summer holidays, although the local beach was nothing to get excited about. I have to admit that I struggle with the very arid landscapes of most Greek islands in summer, but Evia is – or was, until recently – different: full of forests and pines growing all the way up the mountains, which reminded me of Romania. Sadly, that is the very reason why the fires spread so quickly, and why the northern part of the island has been damaged beyond recognition. So, this is less of a Friday Fun, more of a tribute to this beautiful island.
If you can bear to look at the state of it now, I highly recommend this photographic journal by Thodoris Nikolaou, who is a Chalkida, Evia local.