July 02 2010
My style icon is... oh, I find it quite difficult to answer this question. Mr Darcy? Che Guevara? Some combination of the two, I suppose.
The grooming staples I am never without are anything pure and natural. I don’t have much in the way of a beauty routine, though I am partial to REN products. As a Scot, I am, I’m afraid, not very good at self-indulgence. But I do always insist that there are no chemicals flying around in whatever it is I am using. www.renskincare.com.
In my fridge you’ll always find masses of green vegetables and carrots – my daily dose of vitamins. You will also find more turnips – the Scottish orange ones – than I could ever eat in a month. Lots of the ones in there at any given time are probably quite withered…
The best gift I’ve given recently was a trip to the ruins of Machu Picchu for my two nephews. We went to Cusco for a few days before taking the train to the mountain, which needless to say is incredible.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a fabulous painting by a young Ethiopian artist called Ermias Mazengia, who I discovered in Addis Ababa. We had just a single afternoon there at the tail-end of a trip and used it to look into the local art scene. It was fantastic to find such interesting young artists, and such beautiful pieces, in an area of the world where art is often underrated, or even unknown.
The last item I added to my wardrobe is a very groovy pair of Barracuda swimming goggles. I’ve got to tune up my butterfly stroke but without feeling as if I look silly doing it. These fit the bill. Barracuda Ultimate, from £15, www.swimmingwithoutstress.co.uk.
An indulgence I would never forego is the perpetual pursuit of solitude – the hardest thing to find. The world is such a demanding and active place that one could easily forget the joys of isolation and contemplation.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Picasso. I can go into a huge gallery in any museum in the world and be dazzled by a painting on a faraway wall, and when I get up to it, it will be a Picasso. To me he was a pure genius.
The site that inspires me is Sea Lion Island in the Falklands. It is so remote that it takes about half a dozen flights to reach it. You have to be a nature lover and wake up before five in the morning to fully embrace the abundance of wildlife. You could think you’re alone on Earth, just you and thousands of penguins: it’s truly magical.
My favourite room is the “pudding” room on the ground floor of my house in London. When I have guests, we all go down after dinner for dessert and discuss all sorts of things – food, art, the price of corn. Or we’ll watch a movie, or just chill. It is a sort of after-dark salon, where all manner of secrets are revealed. There is much laughter, believe me.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Beirut. It is beautiful, of course; but more than that, its history has created a people who live so much for the moment, and I find this to be an utterly beguiling quality. And I am learning to do the same.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the Fish Market in Oban, in the west of Scotland. It’s along a pier and you can literally buy seafood right off the boat – there are huge piles of scallops and mussels, salmon and trout. It’s a quintessentially Scottish place, and also just very visually pleasing to see all the seafood glistening in such a beautiful display. I don’t believe I’d ever tire of it.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a chocolatier. I find it utterly sensual. I secretly dream of eventually spending time learning and studying the art of chocolate-making and being able to make my own chocolate and sell it in a little shop. Every piece would be beautifully made and wrapped, to please both the eyes and palate.