I’m a workaholic and, all my adult life, weekends have been spent catching up on what has been falling behind. But these days, I am slipping into thinking that Saturday does not have to start at 6.30am, going back to bed doesn’t need to be a secret and reading without a purpose is not wasting work time. Now a perfect weekend is in our Devon home, close to Tavistock. My wife, Apryl, and I live upstairs and sleep down, so we look onto everlasting green. And, rain or shine, it is a blessing.
I live like a king. Everything we buy is vastly better than in London – fresher and tastier – and time with the vendor is its own reward. Life is slower. On the road, everyone gives way – the hand raised after an “after you” is the norm.
Saturday begins with a boiled egg or a kipper – with eggs from Jo and Roger Mounce’s Lifton Farm Shop. From an honesty box and barrow, they have created a hugely successful enterprise, with everything from homegrown fruit and veg to a thriving restaurant, where they make the perfect coffee – an espresso in a big cup with hot milk on the side – and the fullest English you can imagine.
Back to the egg – I cook test eggs first to get them just right. The Aga – one of the world’s daftest appliances – with its blindingly hot iron top-plates does make the best toast. But only if you scorch the bread with its banjo-shaped toaster.
We start the weekend with our only loyalty: FT Weekend. Edwin Heathcote is an old friend and I always read his piece. After, if we shop, it will be at Philip Warren Butchers. It’s a cornucopia of variety and quality produce, and on Saturday it has nine staff members serving. Recently, it opened another shop – just as busy – on an industrial estate, where its neighbour, Cornwall Farmers, sells everything from seed to sheep pens.
We might also take a trip into Tavistock, which is an enchanting small town, and visit its thriving indoor Pannier Market. We’ll buy freshly baked bread, olives and an assortment from Country Cheeses. All helped by the prettiest girls in the west. And if we have guests, we take them to Castle Drogo, where Edwin Lutyens’ fastidious detailing and handsome spaces are shown to perfection. It is a very special building.
For the past few years, our Saturday-evening enthusiasm has been the Picturehouse in Exeter, seeing one of the “live” transmissions from the New York Met, the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House or Moscow’s Bolshoi. What cheers me most is that everyone has bought their own tickets. There is not a corporate yawning guest in sight.
I’ll probably get dressed up; my Issey Miyake buys from my travels in Japan are still a league apart. The Japan years never leave me. From the most exquisite clothes to their unfailing Honda cars, whatever they make, for me, is the best.
Sunday may also start slowly, and then I’ll get stuck into some job or other. I may help Apryl in the garden or do something in my workshop. Outside, I zoom around on my quad bike from Cornwall Farmers, saving thousands of hours trudging back and forth for forgotten tools. But my true love is the ultimate man’s toy – my Kubota digger [pictured] from CBL in Saltash. On caterpillar tracks, it is immensely strong and digs, carries, lifts and scrapes. It is the very best thing “on wheels” I’ve ever had, and is much used for filling the holes in our lane – an endless task, for which I will be in dungarees, originally from OshKosh but now from Engelbert Strauss. Since I saw them in The Killing, they’re my favourites.
Come the evening, it’s time to think of the week’s work ahead, or even catch my train back to London – and imperfection...