Tuesday, 30 June 2009

I've come to the conclusion that I am never happier than when I am pottering.
It's an art, pottering. And one that I have more or less perfected over the years. People think that to potter is to do nothing, but that's not right. It's perfectly possible to achieve plenty while pottering, but in order to qualify as a potter, the task in question must be fairly low key -think making bread, making yoghurt, making wine - making stuff is good. Or perhaps a little light gardening - watering pot plants, deadheading, pulling a few weeds out of the herb garden, composing a poem, or the next chapter of your novel... you know the kind of thing.
The trick to a good and satisfying potter is not to move too quickly. Tasks should be done in a relaxed and calm way, possibly with a glass of wine to hand, and always to a pleasant background noise. Woman's hour perhaps, or Crooked Still (girl bluegrass band - excellent harmonies). Because the real joy of pottering is its strangely meditative quality, particularly when done in solitude. And if someone happens along mid potter, they are almost always drawn into the chilled atmosphere surrounding the potterer, which of course is highly beneficial to all concerned.
Yesterday I spent at least 2 hours pottering. I achieved lots, including a state of deep tranquility. This is indeed the perfect potter.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Food is a very important part of any retreat. Especially a writer's retreat. After all how can anyone possibly concentrate when they're hungry? It doesn't have to be cordon bleu or elaborate - melt in the mouth lasagne, bubbling with golden brown cheese, teamed with a crisp green salad and crunchy garlic bread does the job. Or sleek and flavourful cold chicken, anointed with home made mayonnaise, teamed with tiny new potatoes and firm green beans dabbed with butter. Simple is often best. Only last night we dined sumptuously on a salad of homemade bread pieces sauteed in olive oil and garlic, barely flashed in boiling water garden peas, a generous helping of flageolot beans, a chopped lemon and a handful of basil leaves. The whole thing was well tossed in a generous dollop of very good olive oil and a sprinkling of Thyme.
At the last minute I decided that more was needed, and stuffed some large flat mushrooms with a mixture of softened onions, tomato puree, a tablespoon of plain yoghurt (as if you'd use a fruit one) and some fresh Rosemary. They baked in the oven for 25 minutes, while the salad chilled in the fridge. A meal fit for a king and his queen. Who said life's too short to stuff a mushroom? Personally I think life's too short not to.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Expressing myself

As a freelance journo, over the years I have interviewed a lot of people. Most people are pretty good interviewees and seem to enjoy it - and now I understand why. Since launching Retreats for you, I've been interviewed a couple of times - and I have to report that talking about yourself while someone listens intently is very enjoyable. It's basically a license to unleash the narcissist that lies within us all.
Yesterday I was interviewed by the charming Sadie Nicholas, for a feature soon to come out in the Express - hooray! Chatting about how Retreats for you came to be, and how it works was huge fun, and I'm afraid I may have bent her ear for longer than was actually required.
The photoshoot, which is this afternoon, will be less fun, I fear. The brief is no black and plenty of slap. Smile please..

Monday, 15 June 2009

Suddenly all is revealed. My need to nurture and feed and - yes, ok, love. I am Jewish. In fact I am a Jewish mother. I always knew, of course that I had Jewish blood - but now I learn that because that blood is on my mother's side, it is all encompassing and total. To surmise, if you are part Jewish via your maternal line, you are in fact Jewish. I love it, because now I understand why I adore seeing people eat lots and frequently, why putting hot water bottles in their beds is a joy ( I can picture their expressions of bliss when they get into bed late, tired and cold, and their toes encounter warmth and cosiness) and why, whenever a guest leaves, I can't really relax until he or she calls or emails to say that he or she is home safe.
And now that everything is falling so beautifully into place, I intend to start learning to cook latkes, I already prepare lox and bagels - it;s just smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels, isn't it -mmm, heavenly, challah (that gorgeous plaited bread) charoset -a kind of gorgeous cake thing made from chopped apples, nuts, cinammon honey and sweet wine, knish - a dumpling made from mince and potato, and of course baba ganoush - grilled aubergine dip, which I adore - great with pita bread. I can't wait to start feeding huge Jewish meals to my guests. Proper food for thought.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

happy campers

I love it love it when guests really connect and support each other in their writing. Then the entire atomosphere of the house becomes sort of wordy and long discussions are had in the evening by the fire.
I adore that feeling when people leave having achieved. It's a bit like the kind of euphoria you get when you've just given birth.
And when people compliment me on my cooking, I'm in heaven. Moussaka, baked potatoes and salad tonight, followed by chocolate mousse.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I may be turning into a grumpy old woman. When I pass a car left with its engine running outside our village shop - presumably so that the driver doesn't have to perform the tiring procedure of switching the engine off and then switching it on again - I have to fight the urge to reach in, take the keys and pocket them. When people drive past with thump thump music blaring so loudly they must surely complete their journeys with bleeding eardrums, I shout swearwords at them. And when people send me emails offering me more than one of something with an in appropriately placed apostrophe - ie prize's, I shriek 'Prize's what? This apostrophe denotes the possessive!'
On the plus side, don't people go on tv and get paid for talking about this kind of thing?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Jenni Murray

I love Jenni Murray. Not enough to stalk her or anything, but enough to fantasise regularly about the rather wonderful prospect of being interviewed by her on that shrine of good sense and balanced wisdom that is Woman's hour.
'So, Deborah,' she'd say. 'Tell us why you decided to launch 'Retreats for you.'
'Well Jenni,' I'd say, basking in her mellifluous tones. 'It all began one day early last year when I realised four of out five of the bedrooms in our house were empty 90% of the time. This is clearly madness, I thought to myself as I wandered from room to room, idly folding redundant duvets, and fruitlessly plumping pillows that hadn't felt the imprint of a cheek in many months. These rooms - this house are/is crying out for life - preferably of the intelligent and sensitive variety.' And so the interview would progress. Jenni would nod encouragingly as she asked the kind of questions that simultaneously put someone at ease and draw out full responses. And I would not hold back as I described how Retreats for you came to be, in a manner that could only fascinate and draw the listener in.
Jenni, if you're reading this, give us a call.