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Columns
Esther Lafferty is the anchor of the hugely successful Oxfordshire Artweeks festival and a keen triathlete.

Where the Grass is Greener

Esther Lafferty

It’s the time of year when people begin talking about holidays – planning ahead for summer vacations to lift themselves above the gloom of the year’s first quarter. Some have even been and gone on their holidays: my self-adopted big sister has just come back from a month in New Zealand which she traversed with only a book and a bivouac.

In contrast, although I know exactly where I’ll be going (a rural retreat at the furthest end of a favourite Mediterranean island in the style of the BBC’s Mrs Durrell), I’ve nonetheless been planning as if I am about to take a gap year of immense proportions.

I have friends who couch-surf – staying briefly on the sofas of previously unknown people as they travel the world. But I have taken a more localised approach to this holidaying style – lounging on my own couch with the TV remote and a pile of books, meaning that nowhere is out of the picture.

So from the safety and warmth of Oxfordshire I have been ‘On the Road’ with Jack Kerouac, stayed a couple of nights at Deborah Moggach’s ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, constructed a log cabin in Alaska with The Significant Other, traversed the waterways of India with Prunella Scales and cycled through the 1940s and 50s with the royal family – yes, I cycled alongside the Queen and Princess Margaret.

The bracingly-fresh weather howled around the house’s perimeter as I decided that this was the moment to get off the couch and keep the post-Easter waistline at bay. I’ve been turbo-training using a contraption which turns an outside bike into indoor exercise equipment. The bike came with this device and it has spent most of its life lurking unloved in my brother’s attic without any effect whatsoever on my glutei maximi. If it hadn’t have been a freebie I’d be asking for my money back. The instructions on adding the bike were short but made as much sense to me as a thesis in crocodile breeding written in Korean. So before setting out on my static journey I wrestled with oily moving parts on the carpet (that isn’t a euphemism). The teens were appalled at the sight after years of being met lovingly at the front door with that well known greeting, “Take your shoes off on the mat.”

But now it’s installed, there’s a lot to be said for this style of global travel, a glass of chilled white cleverly positioned within arm’s reach on the mantelpiece – the world is my oyster.

- Esther Lafferty