secret histoire

So much about the planning (or should I say plotting) of holidays is tactical, I find. There was my mother on the end of the phone asking how the children had done in their French aural exams. And there I was slightly exaggerating as to how baffling they were finding the French language. Because, you see, we were both angling for the perfect excuse… to make a beeline for a petit sejour en France… more specifically for Ile de Re, just off the west coast.

It was her (calculated) decision to stay in the main town of St-Martin-de-Ré and it was in the well-researched way (only really) she knows how that La Baronnie was discovered – an 18th-century manor house posing as the most exquisite B+B you could ever imagine.

And from here we entered French history; on 22 April 1785, La Baronnie was acquired by King Louis XVI for Marie-Antoinette, you see…

La Baronnie in Ile de Ré

More like a private home than a traditional hotel, the stone mansion is a truly peaceful hideaway. Restored by Pierre and Florence Pallardy – he is a well-known osteopath and she is a model turned interior designer – our stay was an intimate, calm and almost regal experience. And yet we were only two minutes walk from the town’s busy and picturesque harbour.

So we cycled and we walked. We adored the narrow lanes spilling over with hollyhocks. We experienced pure shutter envy. And we ate.

Here are our favourites for dinner in St Martin for those planning a visit:

Le Cible (thank you to friends who passed this gem on to us!)  all the sand, all the charm

Le Bistro de Marin no reservations, no frills but beaucoup de BUZZ

Le Serghi don’t be put off by the limited menu, every plate was truly delicious

Un Air de Famille the newbie in town, might end up trumping them all with enthusiasm 

(the legendary) La Martiniere, artisan glacier

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the tiny house movement

The conversation went a little like this:

“Wouldn’t it be fun to take the kids to their first festival?”


“Shall we?”


“err HELLO, shall we book tickets for Latitude?”




“Did you just agree to us going to Latitude Festival this summer?”

“…NOT if I have to sleep in a tent.”

Latitude 2018

So there I had it. My carrot stick. We were going to Latitude but I just needed to wave a magic wand so that those who weren’t tent-friendly would still be present and a little correct.

Of course there are tents and then… there are bell tents, tipis, lodges, lotus bells, yurts and… this is as far as we got when the 4 of us, crowded over my screen, saw the A I R S T R E A M.

For those who aren’t familiar with this retro silver trailer, the Airstream trailers have been turning heads on American highways since they first started caravanning in the 1930s.

So by now, tent or no tent, I was fixated on laying my pretty festival head inside one of these ultimate symbols of vintage wanderlust.   It had all the shine and design I could dream of…. so – me being me – I forced a friendship with Mojo (real name), the MD of Airstream Facilities.

The rest really is history. We couldn’t have enjoyed the festival more – while dipping into the luxury of our mobile home when we needed to chill out.

So let me give you my top 5 reasons why a travel trailer trumps all other forms of accommodation, particularly when festival fiesta-ing:

  • everyone had a bed, a real bed with mattress and duvey and pillow. He and I were in the double bedroom at the rear and the front seating area coverted into an (almost) double bed while the dinette converted into a (large) single.
  • The trailer has a fully equipped kitchen as well as deck chairs under the beds so that you create a sitting area outside the Airstream; a perfect place for morning coffee when insiders were full of snores.
  • The TV, air conditioning, central heating and surround sound hi-fi were less of interest bearing in mind we had all the entertainment we could ever shake a stick at on our doorstep but the plug-in factor was HUGE. I mean, give me a festival goer who doesn’t crave a plug socket?
  • The bathroom. Let’s chat about the bathroom. The sink, shower, loo. God bless the Airstream and its own water supply. Some days I showered twice. Just because I could.
  • Last of my top 5 was the thrill of living in total comfort within this iconic design. I became obsessed with the idea that we might sell everything we owned and live on the road. Check out the instagram hashtag #Airstreamliving and you’ll see what they call the ‘tiny house movement’ as we all long to live small yet not compromise on the design.

For more info about Mojo and his Airstreams – dive in here.



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telling the tales

I’m good at sharing.  I share easily.  In fact, sometimes I simply can’t help but share.  I’m taking less about the liquorish allsorts {type of sharing}and more about my personal stories.  I’m referring mostly to the sharing of my feelings; my experiences and the things that make me spring out of the bed, most mornings.

So I want to share with you one of the projects I’m working on right now.  True to form, because almost all of you now know that Panzer’s Deli has undergone a major transformation; and that Hampstead is always a good village to head for.  But this project is more than a little different.

You see, I’m going to surprise you and not try and sell you the latest ANYTHING.  This project is outside of my usual sphere, let alone comfort zone.  Together with a clever friend, I’m writing a book of short stories for children.

But the really interesting bit is that the clever friend is a… RABBI.  I know, I’m as surprised as you are, honestly.  Most of my closer friends that I’ve told, over a glass of something cold and sometimes sparkly, have roared with laughter.  Not because it’s even vaguely amusing nor nice to laugh at the idea that anyone might write a book with a rabbi.  No.  Because that anyone is me.

I’ve pretty much disregarded, tried to ignore, brush off and generally abstain from all things religion since I spent many a Sunday of my teenage years in church saying The Lord’s Prayer.  Then I married a Jew and got by, just by jumping a few hurdles.

And now I’m writing a book with a rabbi.

The short stories will aim to bring alive those stories (from the Torah) that have never seen the light of day – or have been told previously in a less than engaging way.  Often, they will be written in the first person (of the 8-13 year old who will be reading them) or via a talking donkey or a moody female cow. They will be read in synagogue when the child is looking for somewhere to direct their attention.  And parents at bedtime as well as RS teachers will (hopefully) delight in this slightly alterative voice of storytelling where fact and relevancy don’t mean a lack of real, kid-friendly engagement.

And all of you?  You’ll still giggle at the idea that I’m writing a book with a rabbi … until you meet him, read the stories, try to answer our life questions (which follow each tale) and then you’ll see that he’s the ultimate storyteller, the master of mixing tradition with the modern world, the Jewish Pied Piper  – all with the patience of a saint for that idiot who needs more explanation of how the colourful bunch who feature in the Torah came to be. 

Then I’m hoping you’ll read on.  Because there’s a kid in all of us.

This is Rabbi Jeremy Gordon

And if you want to know more about this project, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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the curious link between mind + feet

We look forward to seeing you at the meeting next week’ came the voice down the phone. ‘See you bright and early at 9am’ she added, ‘and do bring some brilliant ideas with you!

My heart sunk. I love my job, I really do. I love dipping my toes into exciting businesses and shedding light on how they might reach their consumer in new and exciting ways. But sometimes the pressure of ‘brilliant ideas’ can make those toes curl.

Except that now I have a new way of arriving; on foot. No underground sweaty armpits, no travel sickness on the big, red, lurching bus and all that time to catch up on my podcast obsession.

But, I was wondering, what is it about walking that makes it so amenable to thinking about all those ideas I was searching for (aimlessly) at my desk? So, imagine my delight to be sat so fortuitously next to a neuroscientist holding all the answers at lunch yesterday.

Dan (Glaser) first explained to me by using some (thank godness) simple maths. As you walk, you can work things out, see the sum for what it is. And with easy sums, the answer is in your pace. But once the sum was outside of quick fire times tables, your feet slow down as your brain struggles.

Of course your heart pumping faster circulates more blood and oxygen to your brain, our attention and memories are smarter and, by relaxing and not focussing too hard on the matter at hand, our answers are in our steps.

But perhaps the most profound relationship between walking, thinking, and idea generation reveals itself at the end of the walk. And that’s where you’ll find those ‘brilliant ideas.’

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