After years of working at weekends, mine are now focused on enjoying family, food and music. I grew up in Somerset, and when the skies are clear this is the English countryside at its finest, with unspoilt views in all directions and space for the children – my son Fox, eight, and my boyfriend Greg’s two – to run wild. It is where days seem longer and silence envelops you. I think of my weekends here as la dolce vita Somerset-style; it’s a breathtaking place.
Our light-filled house is beautiful, wonderfully impractical and hopelessly romantic. It was previously owned by Lord Beaverbrook, who held secret war meetings here and played host to Winston Churchill. There’s also a folly that was built on the remains of a medieval castle; it contains the ruins of a Tudor bear pit and a dungeon, which I threaten the children with on occasion.
Saturday mornings often begin in my beloved disco bath, which is freestanding, mirrored and surrounded by gigantic windows. Then I’ll cycle down to Bridport to seek creative inspiration at the antiques and vintage market – it is full of diverse vendors and is a great place for bric-à-brac and the eclectic pieces I collect for the house. The Red Brick Café there serves delicious falafel and local greens.
This small town feels old-fashioned and otherworldly compared to London. I’ll pop into Bridport Old Books, which is good for stories about bygone Somerset and classic fairytales. I also like Malabar Trading for kilims and Indian silk shirts, and Samways, a fishmonger where I buy samphire en masse when it’s in season.
After I’ve had a good look around, I’ll try my hardest to cycle up the gruelling hills from Bridport to Lyme Regis to meet Greg and the children for lunch. We are regulars at Hix Oyster & Fish House, my friend Mark Hix’s Dorset outpost, where we’ll enjoy oysters and great rosé – particularly if Mark is in residence – which gives me a very good excuse not to cycle the 12 miles home.
Afternoons are usually spent in the garden, lounging on rugs, playing kiss-catch, making bonfires and watching the sun sink. I might spend a few hours playing old records and fiddling around with a painting I never have time to finish.
Later we’ll often go to Hauser & Wirth for a cocktail and some contemporary art before returning home for an evening of good friends, great wine and a mix of music. Thankfully Greg is a brilliant cook as we usually have 20 people around the table – an eclectic bunch of family, arty friends and kids – for a whole salmon or a big roast. In an ideal world I’m in bed by 9pm, but this rarely happens.
On Sunday mornings, after a flick through the FT and Sunday Times weekend supplements, we might go to Dennis China Works [pictured] up the road for breakfast. It has an amazing array of pottery that’s popular with collectors and is my favourite place to buy bespoke pots, plates and bowls for wedding presents.
Sunday lunches tend to be long and I have implemented a policy whereby friends and family each contribute a dish. My parents bring lamb, fresh pear cider, vegetables from their garden and my father’s amarelle cherries that have been soaked in eau du vie. My sister Mary lives in a converted chapel up the road and her family piles in too. The dining room is lively and inevitably finds the children having a breakdance contest.
Sunday evening still feels like a school night to me. We’ll stay in the country as long as possible before heading back to London with the kids in their pyjamas. Weekends in Somerset are like a tonic – a time to empty my head and enjoy the people around me. I always leave longing for one more day.