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Not so WI, Fridays in the Cotswolds

My not so secret pleasure is tucked away between Burford and Chipping Norton, where acres of farmland belong to Daylesford Organic Farm.  Owner Carol Bamford has created a utopia carved out of Cotswold stone. Sumptously understated, the grounds are decorated with Bonsai-like trimmed lavender, and staffed by brown suited white aproned  personnel.  Every little detail has been thoughtfully put together. There is even a place to tie up for your hound, and water, too.  My little Miniature Dachsund always enjoys the foray, although  sometimes cowed by the larger dogs sojourning with her.  But then she’s a bit submissive.

And so here we are, and it’s my sacrosanct Friday off.  I always relish my one day away to play.  Never staying at home unless workaday exhaustion takes me to my bed,  Daylesford is my number one secret pleasure, my guilty destination, and even when my pockets are sadly empty, it’s a lovely place just to sit and think.  Carol Bamford and I have one thing in common, both former long haul airline stewardesses.  She married into the JCB fortune and has turned this little working farm into not just an organic shop and restaurant, but a health spa to be reckoned with.  It’s a real refuge for all of us who need, so dearly, to understand what it is to be cared for.  Whenever I’ve had  treatments in the wonderful barn, I’ve come away feeling more whole, more relaxed than I had felt in an eon.   The Thai massage is done by a lady from Thailand, the Yoga is offered by a gentleman from India.  The treatments are, in other words, comfortingly authentic.

The simple stone and muted natural colours endow her edifice with a Zen-like tranquility.  I would dearly love to inhabit such a calm, cool and clean space myself, but alas, given the half way renovations of my house, perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to the Daylesford perfection.  Such attention has been paid even to the ladies loo, that you gaze about, stealing ideas, hoping that one day, your house could look just a little bit like this.

And that certainly is part of the draw, but it’s not just that.  Her restaurant boasts wonderful menus, even for the calorie conscious such as myself, so that, even imbibing coffee (heart shapes on the cappuccino) and salad (I asked for the vinaigrette recipe), I don’t feel as guilty as I ought to, for indulging in my solitary lunch.

I gaze about me and see an ocean of the well-heeled, bringing Grandmother out to lunch, an army of nannies at hand, or simply twos together, husband and wife, friend and friend.  I must admit that I’m very picky about my coffee.   I think it’s due to my Italian mother, and a lifetime working in Paris.  One day, my coffee tasted burnt.  Given to migraines set off by coffee left too long on the hob, I raised my hand and gently asked how long the coffee had been brewing.  My waiter was fully informed.  He gave me another coffee, and deducted the price from the bill.  Not that there was any need for that, but it felt to me like the standard of staff in the far-flung Cotswolds could best even the snootiest of Parisian waiters.

Wandering about the barn-sized clothes shop, each garment is lovingly displayed and back lit, soft music plays, and a small tea room snuggles at one end – for purchasing tea, that is, although I might be wrong.  I’ve never dared ask.  Latterly, it’s the place to buy the most luscious soaps and candles – I have my eye on the Jasmine Pebble Soap.  The garments, like everything else,  are utterly desirable, their monochrome calling out to we, who wish to disguise our size maybe, and dream of the time when  we would have fit into her products but alas could not have afforded them (the last time I was a size 6 was at age fourteen, after all).  But here are we, paying power in hand, and added girth, to boot.  One can dream.

And for me, that is what Daylesford is.  More than an organic retreat, it’s beyond aspirational.  Naturally, I would thirst for my home to be bedecked thus, with the outdoors indoors, scented candles, luscious organic produce filling the fridge and decorating the Welsh dresser, but how many of us wish it, and just can’t?  I content myself with buying my favouite Vine Leaf candle and depart, if not, after a sumptuous Thai Massage, then with a lunch of salad and potted shrimp which barely nudges my dietary qualms.

I pick up Phoebe the minature Dachsund from the dog park outside the sunlit courtyard and we head for home, more relaxed in mind and body than I have been for at least, well, a week.

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