Editor’s letter: desperately seeking excitement

This month we’re getting our thrills in other people’s houses, revving up new motors and trying anti-ageing therapies in Spain

Richard Christiansen’s garden music room with Percival Lafer chairs, shot for Alex Eagle’s new book of interiors
Richard Christiansen’s garden music room with Percival Lafer chairs, shot for Alex Eagle’s new book of interiors | Image: Kate Martin

It’s weird how 2020, denuded of a year’s ordinary structure – without a school calendar, office hours, parties or events – has turned into a giant soup where every day seems to slop into the next. While my routine is relentlessly predictable, I find time ticks by with ever greater speed. I am reminded of my grandparents, whose simple lifestyle seemed so ponderous, telling me how retirement would go by in a flash. Time shrinks when your calendar is nearly empty, or so it seems. 

How To Spend It editor Jo Ellison
How To Spend It editor Jo Ellison | Image: Marili Andre

But now, as we drift into high summer and, God willing, are not forced back into quarantine, I crave the rush of something new. For many people, August will offer some semblance of a break. By the time you read this, I will have been untethered from my laptop and hopefully escaped my living room to spend some time elsewhere. That’s about the scale of my holiday ambitions this season: I would like to spend it somewhere different – or at least looking at another wall. 

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It’s been a vicarious delight then, for a nosey parker such as myself, to trip through a dozen or so thresholds of the houses featured in Alex Eagle’s new book, More Than Just a House. To create the book, Eagle – a former publicist who now oversees a fiefdom via her namesake fashion, homeware and lifestyle brand – asked some of her favourite people to share their living space. As a result, we get to sniff around some 30 bold interiors: a kaleidoscope of self-expression that takes in every mode of living, from modernist minimal to feminine chintz, and from country piles to great châteaux of kitsch. In “Rooms with a view – inside the world’s most expressive homes”, Fiona Golfar has a sneak preview before the book’s publication; in these days of social distancing, it’s quite exhilarating to get such a close inspection of someone else’s private rooms.

The kitchen in Christiansen’s Los Angeles home
The kitchen in Christiansen’s Los Angeles home | Image: Kate Martin

Exhilarations of a different order are explored by Alan Harper, who trials three new British-made boats that have been built for speed (“Testing the waters in three pocket-rocket speedboats”), and Simon de Burton, who travelled to Worcestershire to test-drive the Morgan Plus Four, a turbocharged remodel of the classic motor which, since its launch in 1950, has remained largely untouched by the car marque (“Thoroughly Modern Morgan: the beloved Plus Four gets a revamp”). I’m not going to pretend for a moment that I know anything about horsepower, or what the words “power-to-weight ratio” might mean. In most circumstances, talk of vehicles quite fails to raise my pulse. The Plus Four, however, is a motor that anyone could fall in love with. When Jerry Seinfeld drove Stephen Colbert around in a 1964 Morgan for his show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Colbert found the car so eccentrically British he suggested a mouse butler, called Wilfred, should live in its glove compartment. Because it’s just that cute. Now it’s got more throttle, or whatever makes it fast. Anyway, de Burton – who is far better qualified to judge actual motor matters – is one of the first to take it out. 

The new Morgan Plus Four
The new Morgan Plus Four | Image: Morgan Motor Company

Lastly, exhilaration of a more intimate nature via Maria Shollenbarger, who subjected herself to all manner of treatments – lung nebulising, magnetic-plate massages, pelvic-perineal physiotherapy, yuzu-apple tea – in pursuit of a mental and physical battery recharge (“Need an anti-ageing reboot?”). Maria was among patients exploring the new bioidentical hormone therapy treatments on offer at the SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain, on a programme that has been heralded as a new alternative to HRT. But don’t worry, gentlemen, we know you might also want to join the quest for better skin elasticity and a renewed sense of joie de vivre. The clinic has a package for you also; and during Maria’s stay, she estimated that around half the guests were men. 

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Meantime, have a wonderful August. Whatever invigorates you, I hope you spend it feeling more refreshed. 

@jellison22

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