January 06 2012
My style icons are F Scott Fitzgerald, Leonardo da Vinci and Diana Vreeland. Vreeland had incredible vision – she saw the talent hidden within people and was able to extricate it. I also think Joseph Ettedgui was a massive influence on the way women dress. Jean Muir invented the little black dress; Joseph invented the little black trousers.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a pair of William Yeoward carafes for a great friend who I stayed with in Toulouse for a card-playing weekend. She is a very fortunate woman with most things covered, so I had the carafes engraved – in my handwriting – with the name of her house. It’s something that works really well if you stay with people and you can’t think what to take. But always check if your hosts own the house; you don’t want to put Villa Santorini on crystal glassware if they’re back in Fulham in two weeks.
And the best one I’ve received recently is a pair of cuff links for my birthday. They are made from the buttons of a 1940s steward’s jacket from my grandfather’s Yeoward shipping line, found at Portobello Market.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is probably Paris. Not because I love Paris particularly but because it’s the nearest civilised city to London. Really I don’t want to live anywhere else. You travel, you go to these cities, and on the surface they seem very nice, but given I have this life, London is the best place for me to be. My partner would love to live in Sydney, and he could go tomorrow, but he’d be going by himself, and without Bobby the dog.
The last meal that truly impressed me was at Sean’s Panorama in Sydney. I went there with huge expectations, which is always a bad thing to do. Before my cheeks had even hit my seat, I was bowled over. The thing about being impressed is that it isn’t just about what’s on the plate – it’s the atmosphere, where the food came from and the other diners. I found flavours and mixtures there that I just didn’t believe existed. I had the most delicious sea bass, and a roasted tomato and mozzarella confection, with tomatoes as fresh as petals. I won’t forget that fish for a very long time. 270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach 2026 NSW, Sydney (+612-9365 4924; www.seanspanorama.com.au).
In my fridge you’ll always find a large tub of low-fat Greek yoghurt and a big carton of washed blueberries. And the fruits of my work: the most perfect raspberry jam from the summer, and Bimbrio, a hard quince jelly that you eat with Manchego. I was so utterly staggered by its success that I wrapped it in mulberry-coloured twine and greaseproof paper and gave it as Christmas presents.
The site that inspires me is the Roseland Peninsula in the south of Cornwall. I went walking there recently, eight miles along a headland, and I had never seen a coastline like it – it’s absolutely breathtaking. I do like the sea, which comes from having shipping in my family. The peninsula is inspirational because man has never changed it, and it’s rugged, bleak and beautiful.
An indulgence I would never forego is my housekeeper, the lovely Carol, who looks after us in Cotswolds. Nothing is ever too much trouble for her. I once said that the two things I would take to a desert island would be Carol and a down pillow. I haven’t changed my mind on that.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand. I couldn’t ever have imagined that there was anywhere more beautiful than the Highlands of Scotland, but when I saw the fjords on the south-west coast of South Island I was blown away. It was the clarity of light, the waterfalls and the vegetation. We stayed in Arrowtown – an old settlement of beautiful timber houses with tin roofs that was built in the 18th century for gold miners – at a very sweet guesthouse called The Arrow. Colin, my partner, and I go away every winter on a journey. The deal is that some of our trip must be five-star luxury and some has to be less than one star, so you get a real sense of contrast. The Arrow Private Hotel, 63 Manse Road, Arrowtown 9302 (+643-409 8600; www.thearrow.co.nz). www.arrowtown.com.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is the memories of where I’ve been. My mind feels a little broader, my understanding is a little deeper and my life is a little richer. When I was 20, I went to Portugal and bought a pile of green majolica plates thinking I was the chicest person in the whole world. On my return I saw they were reduced in Peter Jones. That rather taught me not to mind too much about souvenirs.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is the theatre designer Edward Burra. His illustrations were all about colour and vitality, and, unfortunately, are now way beyond my pocket.
My favourite room in my house is my library in the country. My ideal room is full of books. Really one doesn’t need too much in a library apart from a really old, saggy sofa, plenty of books, decent lighting and a dog. Perhaps one’s partner is allowed to come in occasionally with bottles of wine.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Marylebone in London. I love the mix of Chiltern Street and I’m very happy to march about there a bit. Then I suppose for a twist, a little bit of Shoreditch, which, I have to say, is younger than I am. And that’s fine.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a magazine editor, because I’m terribly nosy, and I think if you’re a magazine editor you get the most amazing information, plus most people are terribly nice to you. My magazine would be a mix of the things I love most; interiors, fashion and food. In fact, I’m one of those people who bounces out of bed in an irritating manner and says, “Aren’t I lucky? I’ve got a day full of things I want to do.”