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