SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER
Of all the sights to behold, few can match the glory of the peacock. Caught with his train here in full display, the iridescent plumage is resplendent in metallic greens and blues. This particular example has been snapped in the grounds of Belmond’s Governor’s Residence hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Among the lush, verdant greenery, the resort features a resident pride of peacocks that strut regally among the hotel’s vegetation. It really is a true representation of the exotic and extraordinary that these birds can weave in and out of the hotel grounds. They simply have to make a sudden entrance, cast their visual spell and then languidly wander away to dazzle the next unsuspecting onlooker.
I’m a true subscriber to the belief that there is nothing quite like tree trunks, the bark of trees and how they behave. It’s an admirable example of natural engineering that humans have never been capable of replicating. From these small structures come the most wondrous of thoughts: a leaf is not merely a leaf, but a signpost of the seasons. They change colour and burst into life in the spring, float elegantly down to earth again in the autumn, and are symbolic of renewal in the natural world. We might see trees every day, but rarely stop to truly appreciate their textures. It’s also amazing that they have evolved in such a way to absorb the chemicals from the air, and then release fresh, life-giving oxygen. Trees really are one of the most undervalued features of the natural world.
There’s something special about wandering mindfully around a garden, or travelling at speed and capturing the briefest glimpse of a field in full bloom. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had was crossing the River Kwai on the Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express, and then travelling up the river among the most vivid and abundant of lotus flowers.. Sights such as these flowers are so evocative and spark all sorts of memories and emotions. They also connect us with our hunter-gatherer instinct of using smell as a primal tool. Whenever I walk into a garden or flower market, I let my nose be my guide before my eyes, and really dwell in the combination of the various perfumes.
Few things capture the magic of colours like fabric. It can be imbued with such vivid tones, and even change as the clothes are worn more. From the intensity of the woven sheets hanging from balconies in Brazil, to the clothes I see people wearing in Africa, there’s a real beauty in seeing any combination of colours together. I particularly like the way one side of a fabric will become bleached by the sun over a period of time, but when you turn it over, the vibrancy is still retained. I also adore walking through many of Belmond’s residences and seeing the ways they have decided to employ a variety of colours and fabrics among the various rooms and settings.
For me, ageing books are a joy to behold. They pose so many questions: who did they belong to? Which shelves have they been sitting on? Which houses have they been through? Who has touched them before you? They’re exceptionally romantic and they all differ in various ways from the binding, the cover, the elaborate decoration of the pages and the care that has been taken to write and produce them. There’s a fabulous bookshop on the west coast of Scotland, and its shelves are festooned with rare, old publications that I’d love to fill my house with. As well as treasuring and admiring them, I also find myself using the pages of old books to fashion elaborate rose petals with.
I do find that there’s real value in looking at the unusual or the unfamiliar and trying to discern a kind of meaning. For instance, I could lose myself for hours just looking at unusual rock formations and trying to see patterns of images in nature that aren’t necessarily there. Similarly, I have a real thing for tiled floors, especially the one at Belmond’s Cadogan Hotel. It’s so intricate and detailed with delicate flowers. To think that some never give it a second thought, it’s simply a floor… but there’s a real craftsmanship in its execution. I love the way the changing light of the day means that the shadows from the window are cast upon the ground or thrown around the room in a slow, dramatic fashion.
As a florist, I’m aware of the vivid and varied assortment of foliage and flowers in almost every colour imaginable. Within the wider world though, I stand speechless before a serene sunrise. When experienced from the balcony of, say, the Belmond Reid’s Palace in Portugal, it’s an even greater joy to behold. I use it as a time to let my mind roam and I find myself musing on the wonders of life. It’s especially piquant when a bright bird flits across my view or I spy a fish breaking through the water, and I let my eye and mind return to contemplating the warming blush of the sun on my skin.