As it’s not an easy time to go abroad at the moment, I’d like to go somewhere in Wales. I’ve never been there but I want to after recently watching Coast, the TV show. It looks so beautiful, you can’t believe it. I flew over Wales once on the way to America and saw a teardrop of land off the west of Anglesey and on its tip a white farmhouse. I thought “I’ve got to go there.”
Who would be your travelling companions?
If he had time between writing another book a month, I’d take Andrew [AN] Wilson; he’s so funny and wonderfully knowledgeable. Also Rupert [the actor] Everett, who makes everything a joy. We’d go in a big comfy Winnebago with a glass top and exchange erudite comments on the beautiful and historic places, while keeping socially distant.
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. What is it?
I love Rome and would like a bit of it in my life whenever I could, so I’d go to Da Bologna in the Piazza del Popolo. It’s like an 18th century picture come to life. You see people rushing about, going to church. I’d order vitello tonnato – my favourite food – and have a Campari or a negroni. I don’t drink wine: I think it’s bad for me and it’s bad for other people.
Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?
Under the stars because we could sleep in the Winnebago, but it might be fun to find a church or hall with Welsh-speaking parishioners, and hope their sing-song voices would send us to sleep … a great experience to share over breakfast.
Which books would you take?
I’d take the Pevsner Guide to Wales and Sybille Bedford’s A Visit to Don Otavio because it’s the best travel book ever written and one should try to emulate. I scribble stuff in my diary and should keep a regular one but I don’t: I have those page-a-day Smythson ones but I’m going to complain because they put the dates in such small, pale print that you can’t tell which day you’re looking at.
Which Bible verse would you ponder as you walked?
“Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us.” (Luke 1:78.) A dayspring visiting one would just be so wonderful, wouldn’t it? One lives in hope, really. My parents were Christian Scientists and Eton made me fairly aware of Anglicanism but I do stray towards the Catholic Faith. The story of the angel coming to St Anne and announcing she was going to be the mother of the Virgin is so moving, so extraordinary.
You stop in a church. What’s your go-to prayer?
Apart from prayers that say “please look after me, God”, one should really thank the world for raising churches to be nearer Him. How glorious that these buildings are put up in this faith, that the steeple was built so high as to be nearer heaven, it’s all so touching. So I would pray thanking God for being the reason for this beauty.
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
Picnic food, so we could wrap it up and take it to the beach. I expect that means my famous chicken salad, which is the most delicious thing in the world, made with finely cut up chicken, very finely diced celery, roughly chopped Little Gem, melted anchovies, white pepper … much nicer than the ubiquitous black … and equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise – Hellman’s, of course.
What’s the singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up?
We’ll do the “All American” musicals – South Pacific, Silk Stockings, Kiss me Kate, Pal Joey, Call Me Madam, Guys and Dolls, etc. Everybody knows the tunes and loves hearing the lyrics.
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag. What is it?
I’m afraid it would be an oversize eiderdown. I take a pillow with me everywhere I go – a small one, made of goose down – because I don’t like big pillows. But here I’d need an eiderdown, big enough to wrap around me, like a cocoon, in a valley in the cool of the evening.
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
Frankly, it’s my own bed. Whatever incredible luxury has been indulged anywhere in the world, one’s own bed is always a welcome retreat.
What would you miss the least?
Nicky Haslam is an interior designer. His latest book is The Impatient Pen (Zuleika Press)
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